Anna Davis was unflappable en route to the prestigious Augusta National Women’s Amateur title last month, a captivating victory that resonated around the country and particularly in Eastern Washington.
The 16-year-old Davis’ ponytails, bucket hat and outstanding play probably looked quite familiar to Chewelah Golf & Country Club members and those who follow Washington junior golf closely.
The Davis family often spends summer months in Chewelah, where Anna and twin brother Billy were belting golf balls by the age of 3. They’d dump a bucket of balls on the ground and left-handed Anna and right-handed Billy stood on opposite sides of the pile and hit shots or practiced chipping.
As Bill Davis Sr. watched his daughter outlast arguably the best field in women’s amateur golf, he had a pretty good idea of what was happening simultaneously in Chewelah.
“I’m sure a lot of people in Chewelah, I know for a fact, are really happy those little kids are doing well in golf,” Bill said. “They’ve had a bunch of aunties and uncles there, a lot of people talking with them at the course, looking out their windows and watching them go by since they were tiny.”
A few dozen of Anna’s supporters were glued to the television, watching the final round unfold in the restaurant at the Chewelah course. Longtime Chewelah pro Jason Pitt watched intently via livestream while manning a booth at a home and garden show nearby.
“It was a huge deal,” Pitt said. “The whole community is behind her.”
Randy Kirby, who has known Bill Sr. for 30 years and has played golf with Anna and Billy for over a decade, had the best seat in the house at famed Augusta National as Anna’s caddie.
“We were playing golf and somebody playing with us asked who was going to caddie for her at Augusta,” said Kirby, who had previously caddied for Billy at a few tournaments. “And she turned around and pointed at me. That’s how that came about. When she got the invite in February, Bill said, ‘I assume you’re still coming to Augusta.’ ”
Wise assumption. Kirby’s keepsakes from Augusta include the flag at No. 18 signed by Anna and the white jumpsuit traditionally worn by Augusta National caddies.
The San Diego area is home base for the Davis family, but “driving down the hill into Chewelah is always one of the happiest moments of the year,” Bill Sr. said.
It’s been that way for 30 years. Bill and wife Beatriz, both teachers, discovered Chewelah through friends living in the area.
“We kind of lucked into it,” Bill said. “For two kids at a place like that, to run around in the forest and go next door to aunties and uncles all over the course. Just the community there and Chewelah in general, it’s kind of old-fashioned, small-town USA.”
Davis was an avid golfer and introduced the twins to the game and eventual coach Bill Barrett, who had helped Bill Sr. with lessons.
“At a young age, I took them to (Barrett),” he said. “It made a lot of sense.”
The twins were active in Washington Junior Golf Association (WJGA) tournaments. Anna won the first of her several state titles in 2015 in the 8-11 division with three scores in the 80s, including an 81. Kirby said Anna’s potential was pretty obvious at 9 or 10.
“She has a great swing and she has that mentality on the course,” said Kirby, who works at Washington Trust Bank and played for the Spokane Chiefs in the early 1980s. “She’d go out and have a lot of fun. Her brother was a little more intense. She has an attitude of ‘hit the ball, go find it and get it in the hole as quickly as possible.’ ”
Kirby quickly adds that Anna maintains that attitude while staying focused and fiercely competitive.
“She’s been like that since I’ve known her,” Kirby said. “She’s very calm. You would think she doesn’t know what’s going on, but she knows everything going on out there.”
Pitt witnessed it playing countless rounds with the twins. He’s fielded calls from college coaches for years because they aren’t allowed to begin recruiting Anna until the end of her sophomore year.
Pitt estimated Davis, who set the women’s course record at Chewelah with a 71 as an 11-year-old and lowered it to 65 two years ago, could have played for most NCAA Division I programs when she was 12. The twins played in the Rosauers Open Invitational when they were 13 with Anna making the cut in the PGA Pacific Northwest Section major.
The twins don’t get many chances to break Chewelah’s course records because they usually play from the ‘Billy tees,’ which stretch the 6,673 yards from the blue tees beyond 7,000 yards, to provide a tougher challenge.
“I’ve always said that she has the perfect demeanor to excel at golf,” said Pitt, now the general manager at Chewelah. “She never gets mad, never gets too happy when she’s going good. She’s more worried about what’s in the snack bag. Then she hits it to 5 feet and makes another birdie.”
Anna’s resume includes winning the Junior PGA by seven shots and the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Heather Farr Classic. She earned spots on the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams.
Winning at Augusta elevated Davis to another level, receiving a complimentary tweet from Tiger Woods and paving the way for sponsorship exemptions into two LPGA tournaments. She made the cut in both, draining a 40-foot eagle putt on No. 16 and a birdie on No. 17 to make the weekend at the Palos Verdes (California) Championship.
“From what I saw, she fits into that environment already and she’s only 16,” said Kirby, who was on the bag for her first LPGA event at Palos Verdes. “When she gets older and stronger, she’ll be able to hit every shot she needs.”
Davis doesn’t have her driver’s license yet, but she has few issues with her driver on the course. She hits it 260 yards or more, long enough to outdrive playing partner Jennifer Kupcho recently at the LPGA Founders Cup.
“She’s about as solid as you can be off the tee,” Kirby said. “Her iron play is very solid. If she’s not on the green, both kids’ short games are phenomenal. Every chip shot, they have a chance to make it.”
The bucket hat Davis wore at Augusta drew considerable attention nationally, but she’s worn one for years because Bill Sr. insisted the twins were protected from the sun, Kirby noted.
Davis, who has soared to No. 24 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings, has a busy schedule ahead. Winning at Augusta brings exemptions into numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in early June, the British Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur.
“She’s in the 10th grade,” Bill Sr. said. “We’re kind of making it through summer and kind of have her schedule figured out maybe halfway through summer.”
No matter when or where Davis tees it up the next few months and beyond, her fans in Chewelah and the Inland Northwest will certainly be watching.
“The members are definitely following her and they’ll come into the pro shop and ask me, ‘Where she’s at, how she’s doing?’ ” Pitt said. “People are always posting stuff (online) about her, ‘she’s made another cut.’ Everybody wants me to order more bucket hats so when they come up this summer, everyone wants to be wearing their bucket hats.”
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