FILE -- A general view of The Masters at Augusta National.

USA TODAY Images

Liguori: Announcement Of Women's Amateur Tournament Highlights Exciting Week At Masters

Ann Liguori
April 10, 2018 - 3:54 pm
Categories: 

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Masters week always provides poignant moments, and this year there were many. But the announcement that Augusta National will host a women's amateur tournament days before the Masters was most monumental.

Yes, the final round of the Masters was incredibly exciting, as Patrick Reed grinded it out to win his first major title with a 15-under 273, fending off Rickie Fowler by one stroke and Jordan Spieth’s near-historic charge by two shots.

Yes, Rory McIlroy surprised many with his lackluster play in his fourth opportunity to capture the career grand slam.

Yes, Spieth lit up the course on his birdie barrage, and if not for missing a short putt for bogey on the 18th, he would have set a final-round scoring record.

Yes, Fowler’s birdie on the 18th forced Reed to score par or better on the difficult finishing hole to win the title.

Yes, Phil Mickelson’s magical touch only showed up in the final round.

Yes, as heralded as Tiger Woods' comeback was, he wasn’t sharp enough to deal with Augusta National.

And yes, Sergio Garcia hitting five balls into Rae’s Creek was painful to watch.

But above all these memorable moments during Masters week, the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship was most exciting, unexpected and impactful.

This is a huge initiative for Augusta National to grow the game and recognize that women are a big part of that growth. Given the club’s history that excluded female members until just six years ago, it shows that Augusta National, the host of the most prestigious major on the men’s calendar, is setting the example to be inclusive and will actively showcase and promote the best amateur female players in the world just days before the top male players in the world show up.

The tournament will be a 54-hole, stroke-play event, which will feature an international field of 72 players. It will start next year, and the final round will be played at Augusta National on the Saturday prior to the start of Masters week, a day before Sunday’s Drive, Chip & Putt national finals.

The first two rounds will take place at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta. Golfers with the lowest 30 scores will then advance to the finals on Saturday, April 6, 2019. The competition will be held annually. 

“This championship will become an exciting addition to Masters week, and it furthers our effort to promote the sport and inspire young women to take up the game,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said during last week's announcement. “And, now, just imagine the 40 girls who come here each year for the Drive, Chip & Putt national finals will be able to dream about returning here one day to compete on a much grander stage for another impressive title -- ‘champion of the Augusta National Women's Amateur.’” 

Details are still being developed, but Ridley wanted to be able to make the announcement at this year’s Masters.

“Regarding the timing of the decision, we met with our senior staff in October and said that I thought that this was the right time to do this," Ridley said. "It was the right time for the women's game. I wanted to do this, and I wanted to do it here. I thought for us to have the greatest impact on women's golf that we needed to be committed to do it here at Augusta National, and I also wanted to be able to tell all of you about it today. So that was a pretty tall order to be given just five months ago. But in characteristic ways that our staff responds, they took that and were committed to be in the position for us to talk about this today. So we're looking forward to this event next year.” 

So during a week full of media hype about Woods' comeback, the number of star players who won prior to Masters week and the typical excitement that surrounds the Masters every year, the announcement to host this new tournament for top amateur female players on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National was extraordinary.

I’ve always believed that women and men should be showcased together, not separately. And by including a women’s tournament during Masters week, the powers that be at Augusta National made a major move that will become a part of Masters tradition, greatly impact the future of the game and set an important example for all.

Bravo, Augusta National!             

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori