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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Auston Kim and Abbey Carlson reflect on Augusta debut

Over a year after receiving their invites, Abbey Carlson and Auston Kim made the journey to one of the world’s most storied clubs.
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Auston Kim and Abbey Carlson at Augusta National. (Twitter/@VandyWGolf)

Over a year after receiving invites to participate in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Vanderbilt junior Auston Kim and 2020 graduate Abbey Carlson finally did just that. The star duo was initially invited to participate in the 2020 tournament, but due to its cancellation, they were unable to compete until it was rescheduled to April 2021.

While Carlson has since moved on from her career as a collegiate golfer, she was thrilled to return to the sport and play at one of the most storied courses in the world. The former All-American competed in the first two days before missing the cut, finishing her weekend at 16-over par.

Kim, on the other hand, traveled to Augusta in her junior year and excelled—she was one of 30 golfers who made the final cut on Saturday after shooting an even-par 72 on both Wednesday and Thursday. She eventually finished 11-over par, tied for 25th.

“I think it just gave me a good taste of playing professionally,” Kim said of the experience. “It gave me some good insights as to what my limits are, what I can do and what I’m capable of, what I want to expect out of myself as I continue with my career. I had a lot of fun competing…it honestly gave me a lot of confidence on what I want to do and what I can do in the near future.”

While they both shared the course at Augusta, there was little in common as to how Carlson and Kim got there. Carlson is currently working a full-time job as a stress analyst for Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama. She had not played competitive golf since June of 2020.

“There was definitely a lot of competitive rust still in my game,” Carlson said. “It was pretty apparent in my scores, but I went in knowing that and expecting it.”

After opting out of the 2020 fall season, Kim returned for the spring and has been excelling as one of the women’s golf team’s upperclassmen. She has three top-20 finishes in just five appearances and has been Vanderbilt’s first or second scorer four times.

Facing one of the most important tournaments she has ever played, Kim took her preparation very seriously. She focused on her putting and short game, knowing that Augusta National’s greens are firm and play fast.

“I just wanted to go in with a really good mindset of being strong and having a lot of patience,” Kim said. “Because those courses are not easy at all, and I knew they were going to be a challenge.”

According to women’s golf team’s head coach Greg Allen, Kim went home to Florida to work with her father and personal golf instructor prior to the tournament.

Similarly, Carlson left her current residence and traveled to prepare for Augusta. Before heading to Georgia, she played a round of golf at the Vanderbilt Legends Club with some of her former teammates and coach Allen. 

Outside of the week of the event, Carlson’s practices were limited due to her job. She spent more time preparing on the driving range rather than playing courses because of her schedule.

“I was just trying to get practice in, when I could,” Carlson said. “I feel like, having spent more time on the course, my scores could’ve been better, but I did what I could with the time that I had.”

Carlson and Kim did share the same experience of being in awe of the course and Augusta National’s prestige.

“Augusta National is the golfer’s Disney world–the greens are perfect, not a blade of grass is out of place,” according to Carlson. “It’s absolutely gorgeous all the way around. There’s so much history there.”

Kim was immediately impressed driving down Magnolia Lane–the road that leads to the clubhouse’s entrance. She considers Augusta’s practice facility to be the best she has ever utilized.

“Being [at Augusta] for the first time was such a treat,” Kim said.

The first two days of the tournament were not played at Augusta, but rather at Champions Retreat, a nearby course. 

“The course was fantastic and in great shape,” said Carlson. “It played really tough, the greens were firm, and the wind kicked up a lot in the second round.” 

On Friday, every competitor played a practice round at Augusta National before those who made the cut would tee off there on Saturday. And for both golfers, the practice round was a culmination of years of hard work—as Carlson aptly put it, “that was a dream come true.”

“I mean, I just had no words,” Kim echoed. “It was honestly, hands down, the best experience I’ve ever had.”

Though Carlson’s experience ended after the first two days, Kim’s hard work paid off: the junior finished the first round of the tournament at two-over par, placing her three strokes behind the leader. Back-to-back par-72s helped her make the cut for the final day, while also teaching her what she’s capable of accomplishing.

Once she made it to the final round, she brought with her some company: Allen, who spent the first couple rounds giving Kim and Carlson tips over the phone, made the trip to Augusta to watch Kim’s last round. In fact, he and Carlson both spent the day following Kim in her last round.

“I got to walk Augusta National with Abbey, while we watched Auston,” Allen said, “It was just a really, really cool experience. Something I’ll never forget.”

Kim ultimately did not have the performance she had hoped for in the final round, but she says she’ll use the unique experience to improve; furthermore, she says her knowledge of the tough course and tough competition can pay dividends, especially with postseason play on the horizon.

“Learning from my mistakes, but also keeping the good things in my back pocket as we move along to the postseason,” Kim said of her post-Augusta aspirations. “Postseason is always a bunch of fun to play, I want to make sure I’m my best, but I’m also holding my teammates up to a high standard.”

As for Allen?

The head coach knows just how special the Augusta moment was, sharing with two of his program’s most talented products. However, he doesn’t think it’ll be the last.

“It’s just a really cool time for Vandy Women’s golf, and they’re the first [to play],” Allen said. “I don’t think they’ll be the last. I think everybody on our team wants to try to play in that at some point.”

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About the Contributors
Simon Gibbs, Former Sports Editor
Simon Gibbs (‘21) is the former Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since the first semester of his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Senior Writer and Deputy Sports Editor. Simon is also the host of VU Sports Wired on Vanderbilt Video Productions and The Hustler Sports 30 on VandyRadio. Simon has attended several events as credentialed media, including the 2019 NFL Draft, 2019 College Baseball World Series and the 2019 SEC Tournament. Outside of his Commodore coverage, Simon has had bylines published on NHL.com and NashvillePredators.com. When he's not writing, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring. For tips, comments or concerns, please reach out to: [email protected]    
Jaime Perez, Former Staff Writer
Jaime Pérez ('22) was a staff writer for the Sports section from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He majored in medicine, health and society and minored in business. He is one of the founders of VSUPS and he volunteers as a translator at the Shade Tree Clinic. In his free time, he can be found playing basketball at Vanderbilt's Rec Center, supporting the school's different teams or watching the Boston Celtics. He can be reached at [email protected].
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