CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As players eye the coveted green jacket at Augusta National this weekend, one local golfer is reflecting on becoming part of history just last week at the very same golf course.
Mariah Smith is making her hometown of Clarksville, Tenn., very proud.
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The University of Tennessee Lady Vol sophomore golfed her way into history this month, joining a field of 72 up-and-coming female amateurs at Augusta National’s first-ever women’s tournament — the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“I didn’t think […] that I would get the possibility to play in this tournament,” Smith told News 2’s Linda Ong. “When I stepped on the tee box, it was really just an amazing moment — I just had to stand there and take it all in.”
That surreal experience on the world-famous, storied Augusta National Golf Course — the club, for so long, known for hosting the mens-only tournaments in its 86-year history.
“For us to be able to play on a course that not many people get to play on — much less not many women get to play on — that was us taking that first step and bridging the gap,” Smith said.
Mariah Smith was also singular in many ways from the group of women that did play in Augusta’s inaugural women’s tournament. She was the only African-American player as well as the only woman from Tennessee.
“I knew a lot of people were watching me — and I was doing this for a lot of people, so I think it’s served more as a motivation for me to just compete harder and work harder to continue to be a role model for those people,” Smith said.
Mariah’s success happened after a lot of hard work, beginning at age 12 at The First Tee of Clarksville.
“I started golf in Clarksville,” she said. “I’ve only ever really played golf in Clarksville.”
Smith didn’t make the final round at Augusta. She had her high school coach by her side every step of the way, serving as her caddy.
“I am really just thankful for all the people who supported me from the start,” she said.
Mariah says, after playing Augusta, she hopes to make the same dream possible for others.
“It definitely helped me solidify my purpose in playing the game,” she told News 2. “This is more than just golf for me — I do it so one day I can inspire others and be a role model for others.”
Mariah still has two years at UT Knoxville. She plans to finish her degree in kinesiology before going to Q-school for the LPGA.