It’s been eight years since Amari Avery made her first “splash” — her word — in golf. A 2013 Netflix documentary on elite grade school golfers introduced an 8-year-old Avery cruising her Riverside, Calif., street on her bike, pink handlebar streamers blowing in the wind, as Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back to Cali” blared in the background.
What “The Short Game” showed came to define the perception of Avery on the junior golf circuit. Much of the documentary centered on how her dad, Andre, had appointed her “Tigress” after she won a junior world championship at 6 years old and was trying to navigate the expensive territory of junior golf by following Earl Woods’s handling of Tiger. Amari’s story arc in the film ends with both her and her father in tears after a disappointing finish at the United States Kids Golf World Championship.
Now 17, Amari Avery will roll down Magnolia Lane with the chance to make a different splash at golf’s most recognizable venue.
“It’s definitely going to be slightly overwhelming,” she said of walking out onto the course at Augusta National, where she is one of 85 invitees to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. “But I think that me just being there could be inspiring for girls like me. I’m going to be out there to play for myself and just show people that people like me can be out there, we can be at that high level and play.”
That venue’s history with both African-Americans and women — an African-American man did not play in the Masters Tournament until 1975 and the club did not add its first two female members, the former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and the financier Darla Moore, until 2012 — is not lost on Avery. The daughter of an African-American father and a Filipino mother, she is one of a scant few Black female golfers on either the amateur or professional levels of the sport.
" I didn’t think that I would see any woman playing competitive golf at Augusta National,” said Renee Powell, who in 1967 became just the second Black woman to join the L.P.G.A. Tour. “Let alone a Black woman.” Powell never had the opportunity to play Augusta National and emailed its chairman, Fred Ridley, to commend him for hosting the women’s amateur event, first played in 2019. As the captain of the United States team for this year’s Junior Solheim Cup — which pits the 12 top young amateurs in the United States against their European counterpoints — Powell monitors the top junior women’s players and occasionally checks in with Andre to keep tabs on Amari’s development.
“She seems to be the real deal,” Powell said.
This is just the second edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, following the event’s cancellation last April in the earliest months of the coronavirus pandemic. But even Avery’s invite does not guarantee that she will spend much time on the hallowed course. She’ll play a practice round there early in the week but because the tournament’s first two rounds are held at the nearby Champions Retreat, Avery will need to make the cut to play on the course where her idol, Tiger Woods, has made so much history.