Although Beth Lillie knows it sounds crazy, who would turn down the chance to compete at Augusta National?
Lillie explained that she was not scoffing at Augusta, but she was just in a different stage of her life at the moment.
Currently an assistant golf coach at Cal Poly, Lillie’s primary focus is improving the game of others, so she declined an invitation to participate once again in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur this spring.
“I didn’t think it was in the spirit of the tournament to play just to say I went,” Lillie said. The more people that can experience ANWA as I did for the first time and go to play to win, the better. Although it might sound crazy to some, it feels right to me.”
Almost eight months ago, Lillie was playing in the NCAA Championship for the University of Virginia. After finishing in the top 10 for a second consecutive year, Lillie sat next to her assistant coach on her flight home to ask for help with her resume. Unlike many of her peers, Lillie wanted to help others succeed.
“I did not realize how good it could feel to watch someone hit a new shot or make a really good shot,” said Lillie. “Flushing a shot or winning a tournament feels great, but watching someone you helped do that feels even more satisfying.”
After graduation, Lillie, who is originally from Fullerton, California, volunteered with her Virginia coaches all summer. She used to joke about wondering what their office looked like, but now she knows how it works.
Upon becoming head coach at Cal Poly last summer, Courtney Roberts already had her eye on Lillie.
Roberts, who was Oklahoma State’s head coach and Washington’s associate head coach, said she had always impressed him.
Cal Poly had one coach overseeing both the men’s and women’s golf programs until 2015. The school hired a separate women’s head coach in 2015, and now both programs have full-time assistant coaches.
Roberts said, “it’s really neat to be here at a time when we can accomplish a lot of firsts,” including qualifying for the national championship.
The Mustangs and their players have yet to qualify for the ANWA, but this year’s team saw Lillie’s invitation.
“I want them to believe that they can accomplish anything,” said Lillie. “That their hard work can take them anywhere.”
Currently ranked 92nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings, the Mustangs are in the middle of a six-round qualifier for their first tournament of the spring season next month at the Tulane Classic.
During her five years as a captain at Virginia, Lillie won twice and compiled a career scoring average of 73.51. In 2015, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Last year, Lillie didn’t make the cut at the ANWA, but she was able to play a practice round at Augusta National that Friday. She didn’t want to remember making a mistake.
Her favorite shot was a 3-wood that found the green in two on the par-5 15th. Her dad walked alongside her and “geeked out.”
It felt like it lasted five minutes and five years at the same time. A lifetime of memories.