When Bailey Shoemaker counts on one hand, she does it a little unconventionally.

She’ll start with her thumb, then raise her pinky, then her index finger, then finally, her middle finger.

She can use that finger to count the one person who wound up finding solace in both Augusta National and eventual champion Lottie Woad – a place where so many of her playing competitors cowered in fear.

Woad claimed she saw a challenger coming, but was it Shoemaker? With Shoemaker’s two missed cuts and being the second-worst-ranked player in the field, probably not. But she’d still give Woad the best chase of the day, shooting a tournament-low round at August National by carding a 66, but fell short when Woad responded with smooth back-to-back birdies on the final two holes to become the champion.

A freshman on the USC women’s golf team, Shoemaker entered the day at 1 under, four shots behind Woad, but all these moments did was inspire her. She was the underdog against World No. 1 Ingrid Lindblad last summer at the British Women’s Amateur in the quarterfinals and showed no fear, even as she lost. She’d played alongside professional golfers on the LPGA and Epson Tour and made the cut in most, but didn’t stand out.

But going into the week, she had plenty of scar tissue at ANWA.

Her third ANWA began on a somewhat unassuming note. She put together a solid 70 for her first round, but cut day on Thursday brought some of the heaviest winds in championship history, and her game wasn’t coming together the way she hoped. Still, she scrapped together a 73 to find herself tied for fifth going into the final round.

“I've never felt like absurd nerves really, but the past few months I kind of have, and Champions Retreat, it's the most nerves I think I've ever felt,” she said.

Typically, Shoemaker has a smile on her face – most likely making a joke to anyone who will listen. But in the past few months, her golf was bringing out the opposite, and she did a good job of concealing it. In her past two college events, she’d gotten off to hot starts in her opening rounds but ultimately collapsed. Her usual saving grace, her putter, changed from a blade to a mallet right before ANWA, in hopes something – anything – would help. But so far, it was proving to be just good enough to play Saturday.

How was she, or anyone, supposed to believe her final round would be different?

Ask the girl who almost decided not to step foot at USC. Shoemaker’s confidence, partly built by playing a full Epson Tour season as a junior, was sky-high. She was almost sure the most she’d do was a one-and-done. She was a junior golf superstar, having made deep match play runs at USGA championships, was a three-time New York State Champion, and was making LPGA cuts. At the time, nothing seemed too big for her.

Could the good old college try hurt? She’d seen how teammate Amari Avery, who nearly did the same thing, was thriving. At an esteemed program like USC, there was room for Bailey to grow, too.

Once labeled “the biggest draw” her head coach Justin Silverstein had ever seen, the work to control that and introduce a fade more often began. Her first two semesters have tried her.

Out of the 35 women who competed at Augusta National on Saturday, Shoemaker was nowhere near the longest hitter, but for once, she couldn’t make her trademark self-deprecating jokes about her game. She found 11 of 14 fairways. She skillfully navigated the slopes of the greens, allowing her to pour in early birdies at 2, 5 and 7. She was walking in putts. All of those pleas to her brand-new putter were heard.

She made Woad, a noted leaderboard watcher, cast stares.

“I was definitely looking at that. I had a feeling someone would go low,” said Woad.

As Woad began to watch her back, Shoemaker only moved forward. The time she spent over each shot gradually decreased, her strut only energized. Her draws got tighter, her putts more precise and her mistakes began to dwindle. She birdied 11 and 13, and her crowd only increased. She walked up to the 16th tee with all the command in the world but with fewer opportunities to overtake the lead, and was 5 under thru 15. Groups behind, Woad was plotting her way through the front nine and was tied with Shoemaker.

With a leaderboard staring at her as intensely at her as the back left pin, she knew it was the moment to make something special happen.

She took a chance, clubbed up…and pulled it.

The ball quickly descended toward the water. For five seconds, she could feel it again – the nerves she’d been trying to run away from all week long. There was no way it wasn’t going in the penalty area. There was no way this run wasn’t about to end.

Until her ball landed atop the fringe and bounced five feet away from the pin – almost like she’d meant to do it all along.

“My heart!” gasped teammate Catherine Park, who had quickly made her way to Shoemaker after finishing up her own round. Shoemaker, smiling, was thriving off of the adrenaline rush as she walked up to the green. It was a familiar spark to Park and Silverstein, who were glued to the Trojan’s round, wishing they could be as close as college golf tournaments allow.

When Shoemaker quickly lined up her putt, Park’s confidence was quickly restored. “She’s gonna make this one,” she whispered.

Silverstein replied with a simple, “Mhm,” and Shoemaker poured in her sixth birdie of the day. Finishing out with two pars, she’d carded a bogey-free 66, a tournament record for the final round at Augusta National.

Finally, Bailey Shoemaker was here. After so many close calls at the past two U.S. Women’s Amateurs, maybe this was the moment where she’d finally claim a title she’d spent years dreaming of. There were hugs, early congratulations – she’d just done something unimaginable. She had a glow about her talking to the media but hesitated to call herself a champion.

Nothing was certain with Woad playing the back nine. The clubhouse leader stirred over the range and prepared for the possibility of a playoff. But Woad’s putt on 17 broke exactly when it needed to, falling in for a birdie and tying Shoemaker -7. That left the door open. When Woad’s approach on 18 settled 15 feet away from the pin, it was inevitable. Her putter, once again showed up. Woad’s ball headed straight down the line for another birdie.

The door was shut for Shoemaker. Woad would forever be an Augusta National champion.

The disappointment immediately fell over Shoemaker as she hugged her father tight. A few minutes later, she again met with reporters, a visible spunk still about her as she stepped up to the small podium.

“Good for her,” she said. “Especially under pressure, knowing she had to do it, that’s amazing. I'm obviously disappointed, but at the end of the day, I played about as good as I could have.”

Former USC assistant coach Katie Woodruff recruited Shoemaker as a promising junior prospect. Shoemaker’s broadcasted haymakers were classic Bailey – she knew that was a player waiting on the next time she’d be back in the ring.

“She’s probably the least scared player I’ve ever been around,” Woodruff said, reminiscing on the intimidation she’s felt spectating Shoemaker from cart paths. “She will 100 percent be back.”

Maybe Bailey Shoemaker didn’t leave Augusta National a champion. But she left feeling more like the player USC recruited. She was herself again, but better.

“I hope to come back. Every single year everybody wants to come back and play. It's a tremendous opportunity to play the final round at Augusta National. That's all anybody could ask for,” she remarked.

“You made the most of it,” one reporter responded.

“I did make the most of it,” she smiled. “Finally.”