Franklin’s Bella Bugg Wins Tennessee Women’s Amateur Championship

  • Thursday, June 20, 2024
  • Paul Payne

Standing on the green of final hole of the 92nd Tennessee Women’s Amateur Championship on Thursday, Bella Bugg had no idea she was moments away from becoming a champion.

Bugg owned a two-shot lead over two-time defending champion Lynn Lim, who finished in the group ahead of her, and was staring down a lengthy par putt. it was only after tapping in for bogey that the Franklin resident realized what she had accomplished.

“I had no clue where I stood when we got to 18 green,” Bugg said. “But when I saw Lynn standing there, I assumed it had to be close. So, I put a confident stroke on it and was able to walk away with a bogey. it wasn’t until it went in that I knew I had won.”

After posting a third consecutive round of 71 on the 6,438-yard par 72 layout at Belle Meade Country Club, Bugg closed with a total of 3-under 213, one shot better than Lim.

Bugg’s victory carries with it an entry into the U.S. Women’s Amateur to be held August 5-11 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

“It’s hard to put into words how much this win means to me,” Bugg said. “My golf game has been struggling since last summer, and this is a huge boost to my confidence. I couldn’t have won this tournament without the incredible support system I have at home. Everybody goes through bad times, but having my friends and family out there encouraging me is the reason I won. They gave me the confidence I needed down the stretch.”

Bugg, who just completed her freshman season at Florida State, entered the final round with a three-shot advantage over Lim and playing partners Sophie Linder and Lexanne Halama. But Lim, a rising junior at Vanderbilt who hails from Gallatin, made a front-nine charge in hoping to become the first three-peat champion since Judy Eller Street reeled off five in row between 1956-60.

Lim shot 33 on the front nine to seize a one-shot lead after Bugg posted a 37 through her first nine. But a birdie on the par 3 10th gave Bugg a surge of confidence opening her final nine.

“I had just missed a six-footer on nine for birdie,” Bugg said. “When I made it on 10 from the same distance, that got the momentum going where I felt like I could just play golf and not be timid anymore.”

Bugg essentially won the tournament by stringing together three straight birdies starting on No. 14. She birdied the par 5 14th and the par 4 15th all three days, but the final birdie on the 146-yard par 3 No. 16 was somewhat of a surprise.

“The 16th is one of the hardest holes on the course for me because I’ve had trouble missing left all year and there’s water on the left,” Bugg said. “I was aiming for the middle of the green, and I hit the shot of the day with my 9-iron to four feet.”

Meanwhile, Lim bogeyed the 12th and rallied for a birdie on No. 14, but could creep no closer with pars on her last four holes to shoot 69.

“Because Lynn was in the group ahead of me, I had no idea how I was doing,” Bugg said. “I knew I was playing good and I just tried to stay dialed in. I give all the credit to Sophie and Lexanne who were great to play with.”

Bugg also credits her caddie, The Grove’s head professional Jude Lenahan, with helping keep her grounded throughout her winning performance in her first entry in the Women’s State Amateur and her first time playing at Belle Meade.

“He’s kind of like my uncle and he's just such a great guy,” Bugg said. “Whether or not I played well, I knew we’d have a ton of fun with each other. He would keep me loose if I hit a bad shot and get my mind off of it.”

The win was the second Tennessee Golf Association title for Bugg, who also won the TSSAA Division II-A individual state championship as a senior at Battle Ground Academy. Prior to her senior year two years ago, she and Murfreesboro’s Isabella Johnson captured the Women’s Four-Ball by an impressive ten shots.

Her plans are to compete in the North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst Resort next week, then hopes to get into the Women’s Western Amateur in Illinois next month in preparation for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“The funny thing is I’ve never played the Tennessee Women’s Am, and I was able to win the year that they start the exemption (into the U.S. Women’s Amateur),” Bugg said. “It’s really special, and I hope they realize how much that means to the girls who get this opportunity.”

Knoxville’s Halama shot even par 72 to finish with an aggregate of 1-over 217, while Kynadie Adams of Gallatin placed fourth with a 5-over 221. Linder, who resides in Carthage, finished fifth at 6-over 222, one shot better than Murfreesboro’s Caroline Pardue.

Germantown’s Sophie Christopher and Knoxville’s Bailey Davis tied for seventh at 8-over 224, just ahead of Murfreesboro’s Isabella Johnson and Lanie Campbell of Ethridge who tied for ninth at 9-over 225.

Cleveland’s Hannah Nall was the top finisher from the Chattanooga area, closing tied for 12th at 12-over 228.

In the Flighted Division, Knoxville’s Addisyn Newman won the first flight with an impressive 4-under 212. Julie Marr of Gallatin captured the second flight, Smyrna’s Emery Mitchell claimed the third flight and Kimberly Ames of Nashville won the fourth flight.

For complete results, go to Women's State Amateur Results


Paul Payne can be emailed at

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