Nowlin to compete at Augusta


Photo Courtesy of John Weast

Tristyn Nowlin hits a drive at the Illinois Women’s Invite at Medinah in Medinah, Illinois. Nowlin will be competing at Augsta National on April 3-6.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff writer

Junior Tristyn Nowlin is set to compete at Augusta National on April 3-6 in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The tournament will be held before the PGA Masters, Augusta National’s most notable event of the year, and just prior to the Illinois men’s team 3M Augusta Invitational April 6-7.

To qualify for the amateur, Nowlin had to finish in the top 30 among U.S. golfers and World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of 2018. The rankings were derived from tournaments, including tournaments the Illini played in throughout the year. Nowlin was one of the top 72 amateur golfers invited to the tournamount.

Augusta National hasn’t historically been open to women. Women were first invited to join the club in 2012, and the first female members were South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to The Guardian, Augusta has about 300 members, and the first African-American member joined in 1990.

Nowlin has never been to Augusta National before but is looking forward to golfing on the course right before the Masters. She hopes to one day be a professional golfer, so for her, playing at Augusta is a step closer to achieving that goal.

Compared to most greens in Illinois, the greens at Augusta are more elevated, so Nowlin has practiced chip shots and visualizing the greens to prepare for the tournament.

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Like most golf fanatics, Nowlin grew up watching the Masters on television and has enjoyed seeing golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth compete at the Masters. Her favorite Augusta memory is Tiger Woods’ 16th hole in 2005, when Woods’ putt hung on the rim of the cup for a while before finally dropping in.

There’s also an Illini connection to the Masters and Augusta National. Illinois alumnus Steve Stricker has played in the Masters 16 times, with his best finish coming in 2009 when he tied for sixth.

Augusta has a rich history in the professional golfing world since the Masters tournament began in 1939.

Nowlin was injured this season, but in the fall, she  finished 23rd at Tennessee, 13th at Gonzaga and competed individually at Medinah. The Kentucky-native finished first at the Louisville Cardinal Classic in October.

The process for getting invited and selected for the tournament was recent. Nowlin said Augusta National sent her an email in early December explaining she was being considered for a tournament invitation. They sent a follow-up email confirming Nowlin would be competing, and a subsequent package was on the way.

In January, she received a package from Augusta National, but it hasn’t quite sunk in for her that she’ll be playing there.

“I don’t think it actually set in until well after I received the invitation,” Nowlin said. “Recently, it’s setting in more than anything just because I haven’t been able to get out and play.”

Nowlin also has had wrist pains for much of her collegiate career. During her freshman season, Nowlin had wrist pain, but received cortisone shots, which made it more manageable. During the University’s winter break her wrist pains came back, and she found she needed surgery.

Despite undergoing surgery in early February, Nowlin has been able to prepare for the tournament and said she’s been putting since the week following her surgery. She’s practicing with the team but spends extra time at Demirjian Golf Practice Facility to work on chips and putts, which Nowlin said would be helpful for the greens at Augusta.

She’s also hoping to make new friends on her first trip to Augusta National and, despite having recent surgery, feels she will be prepared for the tournament.

“My goal was to be swinging basically 90 percent by March 29,” Nowlin said. “I’m already at that 90 percent goal, so everything’s going really, really well.”


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