Women’s tournament helps Augusta atone for sexist past
Augusta National is renowned for its roars during the Masters. Heard from a long distance, they signify something momentous has taken place on golf’s hallowed turf.
Saturday wasn’t part of the Masters week, yet there were roars that will reverberate around the world for years to come.
The final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA) was played on Saturday – the first time women played the course for a trophy. The impact has been enormous. As it happens with everything done by the club, the eyes of the world were on the tournament, and it lived up to the hype.
The history of Augusta National is well known. The club resisted including female members until 2012 when it finally bowed to pressure; it even caused it to go commercial-free in two editions of the Masters, just to protect its long-standing sponsors from receiving negative publicity.
Critics will complain how late Augusta has been in doing this. Why not hold all three days of competition at the revered venue (the first two rounds were at Champions Retreat)? Why an amateur tournament and not professional?
However, there are a few facts that cannot be argued. The golf club, established by Bobby Jones, one of the greatest amateur players of all time, is a great custodian of the game. And they have managed to create such a mystique around the Masters and the golf course everyone aspires to be there.
After the exhilarating experience of playing in front of the largest crowd and media gathered for any amateur championship, the 72 ladies who took part in the inaugural ANWA were left with no doubt it will become as aspirational for young women as the Masters.
Anna Redding, 22, hit the first tee shot on Saturday. The world No 32 said: “I was shaking (on the first tee), I can tell you that. I’ve never seen this many people out on a golf course. This is way more than that has ever watched me hit a golf shot. This has exceeded my expectations by miles. There are so many people out here to support women’s golf, and that’s so special.”
Even the seasoned Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam, Hall of Famer and multiple major winners, wiped away tears – and they just had to hit the ceremonial tee shot at the start.
Sorenstam, 48 and retired for 11 years, said: “If I were given an opportunity to play Augusta National now, it would send me to the driving range.”
US world No 1 Jennifer Kupcho, fighting a bout of migraine that impaired vision on her left eye for over 30 minutes, shot five-under over her last six holes to win by four shots over world No 9 Maria Fassi of Mexico.
Both Kupcho and Fassi qualified for the LPGA Tour last year, but deferred their decision to turn pro so they could play the ANWA and represent their colleges at the NCAA Finals.
“It definitely said something that the top two players decided not to turn pro. That’s really going to be something big in the women’s game,” said Kupcho.