Finn and Panthong

Michela Finna and Pimnipa Panthong take a selfie as they watch fireworks before the start of the Augusta Women's Championship.

Until recently, women were not allowed to participate in competitive tournaments at the Augusta National Golf Club.

That all changed, however, with the introduction of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Kent State women’s golfers Pimnipa Panthong and Michaela Finn competed in historic event in the field of 70+ golfers. 

“It was an honor to be there,” Finn said. “I felt like we made it. It gave me a lot of confidence. People were talking about how great of players we were to get there.”

“I feel like this means a lot to me,” Panthong said. “It was a big tournament. It’s a big step forward for women’s athletics.”

Coach Greg Robertson said the tournament will bring more exposure to women’s golf and is proud to be a coach for this milestone.

“It’s great for women’s golf,” Robertson said. “The exposure and the opportunity for the players means a lot to me as a coach to be able to witness history and (Michaela and Pim) getting to be a part of it.”

Robertson said Augusta as a venue has helped change golf, and that the tournament is another step in the right direction for golf.

“Being held at Augusta really was huge,” Robertson said. “The Augusta National is doing a lot to grow the game of golf. They started the Drive, Chip & Putt for young players and moved that to the women’s side. Now, everyone is interested in Augusta. They’ve turned to junior and women’s golf and are doing a lot for the game.”

Robertson said being held at Augusta definitely added prestige.

“Being such an iconic golf course and home of the Masters with the amazing finishes and highlights added to the prestige. With past winners of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, the best have won there. It’s a golf course everyone dreams of playing and adding their name to memorable moments like 2005 with Tiger’s chip-in and Jack Nicklaus’ putt on 17th.”

Finn described her emotions hit her when she stood on the range of Champions Retreat before the first round.

“When I stood on the range, I knew this was going to be something special,” Finn said.

Panthong explained her emotions took a different route.

“I felt like if I prepared myself, I would think it was just a normal tournament,” Panthong said. “It was such an honor and a big opportunity. The course was awesome. Everything was perfect. I enjoyed it.”

Robertson said the hype for the event was enough to think it was something special, but it took another level when hearing the attendance numbers.

“When I first heard about the tournament, I knew it was going to be something special with the attention and advertisement they were giving it weeks before,” Robertson said. “It was probably everything you’d see at an LPGA event and more. When they sold over 20,000 tickets, it really hit me.”

Both Finn and Panthong said this is just the beginning of their respective careers as both of them hope for bigger things when they start to play golf professionally.

With the postseason right around the corner, Finn and Panthong explained what they would take from this tournament going forward.

“Even though Ohio State is pretty challenging, from what I played, it’s not going to feel as difficult,” Finn said. “I’m hoping to walk up with some more confidence. Playing at (Augusta) really gave me positive reinforcement. You believe if they can do it, so can I.”

“I’m going to practice the same as I always do, maybe a little bit harder,” Panthong said. “I’m going to enjoy it.”

Robertson said this tournament gave a lot of positives to Kent State.

“You hope these young players can see you can come to Kent State, be successful, and get to play on golf’s biggest stage. There’s no substitute for that kind of experience.”

Zachary McKnight is a sports reporter. Contact him at zmcknigh@kent.edu.

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