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Past champion Anna Davis receives four-stroke penalty at Augusta National Women’s Amateur

Augusta National Women’s Amateur defending champion Anna Davis will face a severe uphill climb in her title defense after a four-shot penalty. Davis picked up her ball twice from the rough on the first hole at Champions Retreat to lift, clean and place, she explained after the round.

Davis thought she recorded a bogey on the hole but wound up with a nine, as two penalty strokes are applied to each infraction. Davis said she was informed of the potential violation on the fourth tee, which she proceeded to double.

The tournament released the following statement after her round: “During play of her first hole, Anna Davis lifted her ball and failed to replace it on its original spot on two separate occurrences. Under Rule 9.4, Ms. Davis has been penalized two strokes for each occurrence of playing from a wrong place. Her score on hole 1 will be increased from 5 to 9.”

“Little rough start to the day,” said Davis, “but that’s alright, it happens. It’s a learning experience.”

Augusta National sent out a memo to players on March 28 noting that due to heavy rains earlier in the week, the committee opted to adopt Model Local Rule E-3 “preferred lies” for the first two rounds of the tournament.

The rule restricts the use of preferred lies to “areas cut to fairway height or less.” Davis mistakenly thought the rule was for the entire course, which is why she did it twice on the first hole. She didn’t find out until after her round that she would take the penalty.

“I asked my scorer if we were doing it like everywhere,” said Davis, “but I guess he didn’t know. But he said, ‘Yeah, we were.’ So whatever, it happens.”

Davis has Ryan Bisharat, a family friend and former University of San Diego college player who plays out of the same club in California, on the bag this week. Davis said Bisharat tried to take the blame, and she assured him that everything was OK.

The top-30 players and ties advance to the final round, held at Augusta National. Davis won the third edition of the tournament last spring at age 16 and came into this week’s tournament fresh off a victory at the nearby Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.

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