Playing at Augusta National a big deal for UK golfer Laney Frye

Published 1:11 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

Laney Frye grew up watching the Masters on T.V. with her family all also watching. She has dreamed of playing at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and now she’ll get her chance.

The University of Kentucky junior and teammate Jensen Castle were invited to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur from March 29 to April 1, which will include the top 45 ranked women, including 22 champion Anna Davis and the world’s No. 1 amateur, Rose Zhang. Castle is ranked 25th, while Frye is ranked 75th.

“This is definitely a big deal,” said Frye. “This has been a goal of mine since I heard about the creation of this tournament (four years ago). I didn’t even know if I would ever have a ranking back then. I really wanted to play there one day. I was so excited when I did get the invite.”

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Frye won the Kentucky high school individual championship in 2018 and was second in 2019. Both years she helped Lexington Christian win the state team title and she was named Kentucky Miss Golf both years.

Going into this week, she had a streak of nine straight rounds under par, including three consecutive rounds of 3-under par 69 last week when she was ninth at the UCF Challenge in Orlando with the second-best tournament title in UK history. She has finished in the top 10 in four out of five tournaments this season and had a 70.1 stroke average going into this week’s play.

She expects to have plenty of family members watching her play at Augusta. While she has not played the course before, she was there in 2016 when Danny Willett won.

“Everything on the course was perfectly manicured. It was the purest golf course I have ever seen,” she said.

Frye has played in the U.S. Women’s Open and advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in Puerto Rico. She’s also played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, an event Castle won two years ago. She’s also played in several major collegiate events. However, playing Augusta is different.

“It might be a little harder to fall asleep than normal the night before we play,” she said. “I just have to remember I am playing the sport I love and enjoy it.”

Frye and Castle, who played in the tourney last year, will get one practice round at Augusta.

“If you know a member (at Augusta National Golf Club), you can sneak down and get more time on the course,” she said. “I am trying now to get to know a member, so we’ll see how that goes.

Frye never stops working on her game. She made the SEC all-freshman team — only the fourth U.K. player ever to do that — when she averaged 73.5 shots per 18-hole round, the fifth-best mark in UK history. However, she’s a much better player two years later.

“I was able to go to Florida for a couple of weeks (before the spring season started). That helps keep the short game sharp. Getting to practice in warm weather and spend all day at the course was a big help,” she said.

She was able to add distance to her shots, especially off the tee, and says daily improvement may not seem “mind-blowing,” but it adds up eventually. Frye admits she has “grown up” the last three years and also naturally progressed to the point where she’s confident she can play with anyone.

“It’s fun going to tournaments now. I believe if I perform as well as I can that can give me the title unless someone just blitzes the field,” she said. “I feel like everything has worked out like it was supposed to.”

Frye often plays against LPGA-caliber talent in collegiate matches but knows some college players don’t aspire to play on the tour.

“If I get paired with a couple of players who I know will make the tour, then playing with them is LPGA quality because they are putting in the work to get there,” the UK junior said. “The depth on the LPGA Tour is greater than college golf, but the top of college golf is definitely LPGA quality.”

She’s taking an LPGA-type approach to preparing for playing at Augusta while also competing for UK the next few weeks.

“I am doing some extra things in practice. Knowing Augusta is on the horizon is kind of like the pros preparing for majors. They are still playing regular events, but they are working on what they know they will need to do in major,” Frye said. “I am working on distance control and my putting on those Augusta greens.”