Jess Baker reflects on her Augusta National Women’s Amateur debut ahead of The Chevron Championship

Jess Baker added another bucket list event to her CV at the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur as part of a busy run of events which will culminate at the first women’s major of 2023, The Chevron Championship.

Jess, who received an invitation to be part of ANWA in the week before The Masters following her victory in last summer’s Women’s Amateur Championship, posted rounds of 76 and 74 at Champions Retreat to finish the opening two rounds of the 54-hole tournament on six over-par and miss the cut by four shots.

“Playing ANWA for the first time was incredible,” said Jess. “They put on an amazing event throughout the week, as you’d expect Augusta National to do, and it was faultless.

“They copy all the best bits from The Masters, from the first tee announcements and name plates through to hosting a dinner ahead of the tournament.

“On the course, my putter was a little cold at Champions Retreat, which meant my scores didn’t reflect how well I played from tee to green, but I’m not too bothered. Putting is one of my strengths and it was just one of those weeks where the ball wasn’t dropping as often as I’d like. The scores were so strong and I wasn’t a million miles off in a field made up of the very best amateurs in the world.”

While she wasn’t among the 31 players to make it to the final tournament day at Augusta National, Jess did get to play The Masters venue along with all 72 players in the field.

“Playing Augusta was amazing,” added Jess. “It was one of those days where I just wanted to take everything in.

“Knowing I wasn’t preparing for the final round took all the pressure off and I could enjoy being out there on one of the most famous courses in the world.

“The slope on no.2 is insane and hitting a hybrid to that green was so tough. The moment you come over the hill on no.11 and see Amen Corner for the first time is unbelievable – it’s like looking at a painting, everything is just so perfect and it’s hard to get your head around the fact it’s real.

“I was mic’d up by the Golf Channel for Amen Corner, as was my dad while watching, and to share that first experience with him and have it recorded was so much fun.

“Having Charles Nasworthy from Augusta caddying was a different experience. While I didn’t have my dad on the bag this time, it was important to have Charles’ knowledge to-hand – such as how influential the grain running towards Amen Croner is. As I look towards turning professional, it’s important to work with different people and see what qualities I’d like in a caddy. That said, I’m looking forward to having my dad back on the bag at Chevron.”

Jess, who is in her third year at the University of Central Florida, will tee it up April 20-23 in The Chevron Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods – her third women’s major championship following invites to the Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield last season. She will also be in the field at the Women’s US Open at Pebble Beach in July.

“It’s been a really busy few weeks with ANWA and college events, but I’ve been playing well and taking a lot of confidence into each event,” said Jess. “I’ve got Conference Championships in the three days before Chevron, then I’m flying to Texas on Wednesday night to tee off in a major on Thursday.

“I’m not trying to do anything different or special at Chevron though. While it’s a major, I’ve still got the same strengths and weaknesses and the key is adapting to the course.

“Chevron will be another amazing experience following last year’s majors and ANWA already this year.

“It’s a little quieter after that, but there’s so much golf to look forward to at home before the US Open at Pebble Beach, which I’m really looking forward to as I thrive on costal courses.

“I’ve been building up this season and improving my scores all the time. I’m in a good spot mentally and physically, and with my golf swing, so we’ll see how it goes. One of my main goals is still to enjoy it all.”