The Augusta National Women’s Amateur in its five years of existence has been many things: dramatic, exciting, life-changing, and empowering.

What it hasn’t been? Predictable.

I understand the favorite winning in 2023 defies that logic, but she won it in the most unlikely fashion. We were so used to Rose Zhang obliterating everyone, and instead, she barely survived last year’s round, winning a playoff.

I’d suggest continuing to set aside any crystal balls for 2024, but it’s always fun to speculate what could be at ANWA, where the best in women’s amateur golf compete for its biggest title. Its format has long demanded that kind of greatness: Two days spent at Champions Retreat before a cut decides the top 30 and ties that advance to Saturday’s final round at Augusta National Golf Club.

In the post-Rose Zhang era, women’s amateur golf is trying to establish a unique identity. Its biggest stage typically informs that. This year, in particular, means ushering in a new generation of top players who could be around for a while (unless, of course, they turn professional).

And just because they’re young doesn’t mean they haven’t been around before. Of course, there’s past champion Anna Davis, who early enrolled at Auburn this spring and has remained spectacular since her victory in 2022. 16-year-old Gianna Clemente, who made headlines for Monday qualifying for three LPGA events in a row back in 2022, has parlayed her high level of play into her second ANWA invite after making the cut in 2023. This time, aware of her capabilities, her own personal ceiling has risen. Known for her proficient ball-striking, she took plenty of notes after her first year and has brought her game to a level she’s confident in.

She knows the biggest obstacle, Champions Retreat, isn’t a walk in the park.

“I’ve always been really good on tough golf courses,” Clemente says. “It’s playing really firm, which is an advantage for me.”

Like other up-and-comers, Clemente knows this week has major implications, outside of capturing the crown jewel of women’s amateur golf. The winner takes home exemptions into four major championships: the Chevron Championship, the U.S. Women’s Open, the Women’s Open and the Evian Championship. Playing these can further your case as an amateur star, and perhaps open the door to one more exclusive opportunity: a spot on this summer’s Curtis Cup team.

“I try not to think about that during the tournament,” Clemente says, though she admits, “it’s a common thought off the course.”

Like Clemente, the two most recent U.S. Girls’ Junior Champions, Yana Wilson and Kiara Romero, are entering into this group of young, top-notch American amateurs. Both 17 years of age, Romero has already claimed two victories in her freshman year at Oregon, while Wilson, who will be joining her in the fall, expects similar success.

There are some seasoned collegians who are firmly in this contender conversation, too. Catherine Park and Zoe Campos, who compete at rival schools, are helping lead the way for USC and UCLA, respectively. Park, who was the only player on her team to go 3-0 in the match play portion of the 2023 NCAA Championship, has collected two top-fives and a win in her sophomore year. Junior Campos has won three times, a tremendous response to a difficult beginning of her college career.

“Confidence is a really big factor,” Campos said. “Just the last two years I've really built on that and just playing well, and then learning from my freshman year, I guess, too. I struggled a lot then. You just have to accept and just know that you're going to have bad days, bad years, bad months. I think it's just really important to know that there are a lot of outcomes out there, and you just have to take what it is and move forward.”

And despite three out of four past ANWA champions being Americans, the international side of the field is deeper than it's ever been. This event has seen the best and worst of Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad, from contending in her first two starts to missing the cut last year, shooting an ugly, uncharacteristic 78 in her second round at Champions Retreat.

Americans aside, Japan leads the way in representation with nine players in the field – while Spain is not far behind with seven, and arguably, the strongest group top to bottom of any non-US country. Poised to take the number one spot in WAGR once Ingrid Lindblad departs for the pro ranks, Julia Lopez Ramirez has made an incredible case for Spanish golf. A third place finish at Pebble Beach earlier in the season and a win against one of the toughest fields in college golf at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate makes Lopez Ramirez a standout among her countrywomen.

Paula Martin Sampedro, a freshman at Stanford, has made her own statement in earning an invitation to the event – but recognizes how talented the group is. The average WAGR rank of each of the seven Spanish players? 19, with two in the top 10.

“It’s crazy to have all of us here, especially because we’ve grown up competing against each other,” Martin Sampedro says. “It almost feels like a Spanish event.”

It wasn’t long ago when red, white, and blue was all anyone saw on the WAGR top 10. That’s not to say it won’t return, given the American young guns who are dominating on the younger levels of amateur golf. But it’s hard to deny this era of parity in women’s amateur golf – and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur has rolled out the red carpet just in time.