Au­gusta’s Women’s Am­a­teur is a half-step in the right di­rec­tion

Re­joice! Hal­lelu­jah! Huz­zah! Women are com­ing to Au­gusta Na­tional. Brian Wacker on a chang­ing time.

Golf World (UK) - - THE SPIN -

It was only 15 years ago that the late Wil­liam ‘Hootie’ John­son, chair­man of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee at Bank of Amer­ica, a mem­ber of the South Carolina Busi­ness Hall of Fame and then chair­man of the lil’ ol’ golf club at 2604 Washington Road, Au­gusta, Georgia, is­sued a pointed state­ment in re­sponse to then Na­tional Coun­cil of Women’s Or­ga­ni­za­tion chair Martha Burk’s con­tention that be­cause the Mas­ters was hosted at a male-only club it con­sti­tuted sex­ism. John­son’s re­sponse, in short, was “We will not be bul­lied, threat­ened or in­tim­i­dated... at the point of a bay­o­net.”

Times change, thank­fully, and the mood was much more con­cil­ia­tory when Fred Ri­d­ley, in his first ma­jor ap­pear­ance as the club’s new chair­man, an­nounced on Wed­nes­day of this year’s Mas­ters that the club would cre­ate and help host the Au­gusta Na­tional Women’s Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship next year. It’s a great idea, the ob­jec­tive be­ing to grow the game of golf and to ben­e­fit women’s golf at all lev­els.

“This is a dream come true,” said Hall of Famer An­nika Sören­stam, who was present for the an­nounce­ment. “It will be an ex­cit­ing car­rot for th­ese young am­a­teurs.” In­deed it will be. It’d just be nice if it in­cluded the rest of the salad, too.

While most cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion, the 54-hole tour­na­ment will be played the week be­fore the 2019 Mas­ters, with the first two rounds at a nearby course and only the fi­nal round grac­ing the gilded grounds of Au­gusta Na­tional on Satur­day April 6. Good. Just not good enough. Why not hold the en­tirety of the tour­na­ment there? Things move slow in the Amer­i­can South and even slower down Mag­no­lia Lane.

The other big prob­lem would be that the LPGA’s first ma­jor of the year, the ANA In­spi­ra­tion, takes place the week be­fore the Mas­ters and grants a half-dozen ex­emp­tions to the best fe­male am­a­teurs, who’d have to choose be­tween play­ing in a ma­jor or at Au­gusta Na­tional.

Per­haps I’m just greedy. I like more than a dan­gling car­rot. But I’m also happy to see this pro­gres­sive step, one of a few taken in re­cent years by the club. Asked what mo­ti­vated him to help grow the women’s game, Ri­d­ley said, “I just felt that there was an op­por­tu­nity to make a state­ment as to how we feel about this part of the game. It was time to do that. I hap­pen to have three daugh­ters, and they all love golf. I know they’re go­ing to be re­ally ex­cited about this.”

And that’s great. I just hope they ask him when their fel­low women will be able to play an en­tire tour­na­ment there.

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