What It's Like To Play Augusta National For The First Time...
LET star Lily May Humphreys on what it's like to play Augusta National
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Certain elements of the professional game have been fairly nauseating over the past few weeks. The first couple of months of 2022 have been dominated by talk of the rumoured Saudi Golf League and Phil Mickelson’s unwitting part in its recent downfall, more recently we’ve had Tiger Woods being handed the top pay-out of $8m for the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program for 2021 – a year where he played once in the hit-and-giggle event with his son Charlie. Nobody could begin to quibble over what Woods has brought to the PGA Tour but, even by their standards, this was ludicrous.
Thankfully in other corners of the game there are plenty of reminders of why we all love it, with talented youngsters following their dreams whereby just making it onto a main tour is part of the journey. Lily May Humphreys is still a teenager but she’s already packed plenty into her relatively short career. Her CV is decorated with all manner of amateur titles, she featured on Curtis Cup, Junior Solheim Cup and Vagliano Trophy teams and she even teed it up at the 2020 US Women’s Open.
Then she turned pro last year and things continued at pretty much the same pace.
“Ever since I was 11 or 12 I wanted to be a pro and I always thought I would like to give it a go at 18. With Covid it delayed it as there were no Q Schools and there weren’t any more amateur events going on so I thought that there was no point in waiting around. My Curtis Cup captain Elaine Farquharson Black knows people on the LET and Access Series and got us a Zoom call with them and that made me think that I would like to play the Access Series instead of waiting for Q School,” she explains.
“I had always been told that you should turn pro when you’re playing well but, because of Covid, I wasn’t playing much so it was hard to tell and so I thought I might as well get some experience on the tour. It was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment thing.”
Humphreys won in Belgium on her first start, by no fewer than six shots. There would be three successive second places, half her starts would finish in the top 10 and she would end her inaugural season as both the leading player and rookie.
“I kind of flowed straight into it, it’s still golf at the end of the day. It’s a bit different as all tournaments add up to something and my old England coach Steve Robinson always said that when you’re a pro every shot and every round counts and you have to have that mindset.”
Behind Humphreys is Trinifold Sports Management which has eased all of her financial pressures and helped with high-performance coaching and tournament invites on the LET. They even played a big part in getting the Essex teenager to her first major start in the US Women’s Open as there was a good chance that Humphreys might have qualified for the major but then wouldn’t have been able to afford the tournament expenditure.
“Bill (Curbishley) and Jimmy (Byers) founded Golfing4Life, which was set up to help young players and give us opportunities. I knew they wanted to make a management company with a difference, so the timing was perfect for me as I knew them well. I wouldn’t have been able to turn pro without them, I’m not from a wealthy family and they introduced themselves when they found out that I couldn’t take up an invitation to the US Amateur when I was 15 due to financial demands. They said it wasn’t right and that they would fund the entire expenditure. Then, with the US Women’s Open, they provided the same support which meant I could travel to the championship, so without them that opportunity wouldn’t have happened.
“It all adds up with the hotels, cars, flights etc, not many people can afford it without some help as there are so many travel costs involved.”
Humphreys might still not be 20 but she’s already ticked off the ultimate golfing bucket-list item by playing at Augusta National. Twice. She qualified for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 and 2021 which, despite missing out on the final round at Augusta, did involve a practice round there, each time the week before the Masters.
“It’s amazing, I loved it. You’re in the shuttle bus and go down Magnolia Lane and everyone has their phones out as you go round towards the clubhouse. In 2019 we got to look round the whole clubhouse and the locker room where they have the winners of every Masters, so Tiger had his name all over this locker and they keep a club from each winner so Patrick Reed’s 7-iron was in a cabinet which was really cool. The clubhouse is really small, the biggest place is the pro shop which is massive.
“You obviously know what to expect on most holes but there are aspects which are even more extreme. The green on 12 is so much smaller than you think, it’s tiny and something like five yards between the front and back bunker. I can’t believe people hit the green so often. The walk over the top of the hill at 11 is amazing, you get to see where all the famous shots were played from and try to recreate a few and one of my favourite holes was 16, where everyone gets really excited about hitting the slope to the right and watching it come down. Like the Masters everyone tries skimming it in the practice round and I managed to hit the green which was nice. I shot level par but last year they really firmed up the greens for the Masters and it was quite tough.
“The other interesting bit is the inside knowledge from the caddies on the houses and buildings around the course, there’s a building just for the members where they can have drinks and watch the golf. There are so many different hospitality buildings that nobody knows about.”
And the iconic pair of par 5s coming home?
“The 13th and 15th are really fun holes as you would imagine, 13 is really tough as it’s quite narrow if you don’t draw it round the corner. The trees are quite intimidating and one slants over, then at 15 you tee off and you can’t see anything, you just hit over this hill and you see this tiny little green and then the 16th green through the trees. It’s all very cool.”
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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