Officials at the famed club were asking for contact information for ETSU golfer Hee Ying Loy, and Shelton had an inkling what that meant.
“I almost fell over,” Shelton said Wednesday.
A few days later, Loy received a call of her own from Augusta. She had been invited to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, April 3-6. That’s the week before the Masters, and Loy will be one of 72 golfers from around the world to play in the inaugural women’s event.
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Shelton said. “It came out of the blue. She was absolutely blown away. She’s going to get to use the locker room, drive down Magnolia Lane, maybe even have a dinner at Augusta National. We’re so excited.”
The first two rounds will be held April 3-4 at Champions Retreat Golf Club in nearby Evans, Georgia. The final round — after the field is cut to the top 30 players — is set for April 6 at Augusta National.
Loy will get to play Augusta even if she misses the cut. In a unique twist, a practice round for everybody in the field is scheduled for April 5.
“It’s amazing to be recognized this way,” Loy said. “It was a very special phone call from Augusta, really unexpected and surprising, but I’m really excited to have this opportunity. It’s going to be the biggest tournament that I’ve ever played in.”
Shelton said shortly after the invitation had been granted, she told Loy that she would not be available to caddy for her.
“I told her ‘If you’re going to play Augusta National, you’re going to use a course caddy and have a chance to win that thing,’ ” Shelton said. “She gets one designated guest, and that’s what I am going to do. Just to experience that all with her and cheering her on every single step of the way, we’re looking forward to that.”
If Loy makes it to the final round at Augusta National, her teammates will be in the gallery. The Bucs are playing in Mercer’s tournament in Macon, Georgia, the following week, and their practice round is the day after the Augusta tournament.
Players qualified for the tournament by virtue of their performances in major amateur competitions around the world. Loy received one of eight special invitations handed out by the tournament committee. The senior from Malaysia is 132nd in the World Amateur Rankings. She was ranked as high as ninth during her sophomore year.
Loy, who will play three college tournaments before heading off to Augusta, has a chance to break ETSU’s career stroke average record. She’s also the first ETSU women’s golfer to be an all-Southern Conference pick for three years and can make it four this spring.
The final round of the event will be televised by NBC.
“The prestige of this event is just going to be such an incredible experience,” Shelton said. “She is the most deserving kid in the world. She is 100 percent devoted to this game and pursuing it after college. She’s the most humble, down-to-earth, most appreciative kid in the world.”