Paine College’s Taya Buxton takes her place in Augusta National lore as marker

AUGUSTA, Georgia — You can now call Paine College women’s golfer Taya Buxton the female version of Jeff Knox at Augusta National Golf Club.

Buxton, who has only been playing golf for four years and is 18 years old, had never heard of Knox until she was told about him Saturday after she played in the final round of the fourth Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Knox has been the long-time marker in the Masters Tournament when there is an odd-number of players in the field after the 36-hole cut. When it happens, Knox, an Augusta National member who lives in Augusta, is paired with the golfer who is first off in the round, keeping him company and keeping his score.

The issue of a marker never came up in the first three editions of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur because only the top 30 advanced from 36 holes of qualifying. Ties for 30th place were broken in a playoff.

This year, the rule was changed, and the top 30 – and ties – advanced. Thirty-one golfers from the 72 starters in the first two rounds at Champions Retreat qualified to play the final round at Augusta National Golf Club.

So why did Buxton get the call to play Saturday?

It goes back to almost exactly a year ago, when Augusta National created the Lee Elder Scholarships for men and women at Paine College, Augusta’s Historically Black College. The scholarship is named in honor of Elder, the first Black to play in the Masters, in 1975. Elder died in November 2021, seven months after he served as an honorary starter for the 2021 Masters Tournament with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

In addition to the Elder Scholarships, Augusta National also funded the creation of a women’s golf team at Paine, which started this season. Buxton, of Powell, Ohio, was the first women’s recipient of the scholarship.

Augusta National alerted her two months ago that, in the event of an odd-number of players in the field for the final round, she would be the first choice to be the marker.

Buxton was following the results and knew the standings. The call came Thursday night, when Buxton was about to go to bed in her dorm room.

“I was waiting for the phone call and I saw it pop up and he said how would like to play at Augusta National and I said, ‘Yes, of course I would,’” she said. “I’m really glad and happy to be out here.”

She was paired with England’s Lottie Woad. She declined to say what she shot, saying she picked up on a few holes to help with pace of play and “it was not my best. My swing was off today.”

“I didn’t play my best but I just enjoyed the experience, every shot, the crowd,” Buxton said. “It’s all new to me. It’s very nerve-wracking at first but I think I got used to it. I really enjoyed myself out there today.”

The beginning and end of the day were the most memorable moments for Buxton.

At the start, she had her father drive her to Augusta National, so he got to experience driving down Magnolia Lane with her. Then, it was a thrill when her name was placed on the starter’s standard on the 10th tee. Not only that, her caddie had her last name on the back of his caddie suit, just like the other golfers. There was one difference – hers was the only one in purple, which is Paine athletics’ dominant color.

And at the end, she hit her best shot of the day on her final hole. Because she started her round on No. 10, her last hole was No. 9. She hit her approach shot on the par 4 to 6 feet, but ran the birdie putt past.

“I wanted it bad,” she said. “I gave it all I could.”

She did make the comeback putt for par.

“I was kind in shock about it,” she said of the chance to play on Saturday. “Just to know I got this opportunity to play is awesome in itself.”

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