Three ladies from Tennessee have received one of the most coveted invitations in women's amateur golf.
Rachel Heck, Addie Baggarly and Ashley Gilliam all found out on Wednesday that they would be part of the field for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, to be played March 30-April 3.
“It’s such an honor to have the opportunity to tee it up at Augusta,” said Baggerly, a Tennessee High (Bristol) graduate who now plays at the University of Florida and resides in Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
“This is arguably the biggest event in the women’s game, and to get that invitation in the mail was a dream come true. I was fortunate enough to see the golf course up close and personal last January, but to play it in a tournament setting is an experience I’m sure I’ll never forget."
The ANWA was ushered in to huge fanfare in 2019 as it marked the first time women had been invited to compete at the famed Augusta National.
Jennifer Kupcho was the event’s first champion as she played the final six holes in 5-under par to out-duel Maria Fassi for the title.
The first 36 holes of the tournament are contested at nearby Champions Retreat Golf Course. Every golfer in the field then gets to play a practice round at Augusta National, and then those who made the 36-hole course play the final round at the course made famous as host of The Masters.
The tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inaugural ANWA had one Tennessee native compete as 2018 Tennessee Women’s Amateur champion Mariah Smith of Clarksville was part of the historic field.
This year Heck, Baggarly and Gilliam will carry the torch for the Volunteer State.
As Heck’s mother, Stacy, joked - this is the third invitation that Heck has received to the ANWA and she has still yet to see the course.
The Memphis native and Stanford University freshman was set to compete in 2019 but received an invitation to play in the LPGA ANA Inspiration the same week and chose to play in the major.
That was the third professional major that Heck had competed in during her distinguished junior career. She made the cut in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as a 15-year-old and the following year finished T44 at the LPGA Evian Championship.
In 2020, Heck earned medalist honors at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and advanced to the Round of 16 in match play.
Heck is a two-time Tennessee Women’s Golfer of the Year after winning the Tennessee Junior Golfer of the Year award three consecutive times.
Gilliam won Tennessee Women’s Golfer of the Year honors in 2018, the same year she won her second consecutive Tennessee Junior Amateur championship.
A native of Tullahoma and a sophomore at Mississippi State University, Gilliam had a stellar freshman season in Starkville as she set the MSU record for season stroke average on her way to All-SEC First Team and SEC All-Freshman Team honors.
Gilliam’s freshman scoring average of 70.61 ranked sixth in all of NCAA Division I and she was named to Golfweek’s All-American Third Team.
"It is such an honor to be invited to play in the Augusta National Women's Amateur," Gilliam said. "Ever since they announced the tournament, it has been a goal of mine to make it, and I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to compete this spring."
Baggerly is a senior in Gainesville and most recently represented the United States Team in the annual Arnold Palmer Cup at Bay Hill Country Club.
Baggerly won a TSSAA state championship at Science Hill High School in 2013 before ending her prep career with Tennessee High.
On the collegiate level, she earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2017-18 and then the following year captured her first career title at the AllState Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate.
Baggerly was a Second Team All-SEC selection in 2019-20 as she finished the season as the No. 36 player in the nation, according to GolfStat.