Over a decade since his last major golf championship win in 2008, Tiger Woods did the unexpected, and won his fifth Masters tournament at the age of 43 this past Sunday. In a thrilling race to the finish in the final round, Woods beat Brooks Koepka by a single stroke, catching the attention of spectators worldwide. Since this phenomenon, it seems as if the entire world can’t get enough of Tiger Woods. However, what about Jennifer Kupcho, a senior at Wake Forest University and the top-ranked female amateur golfer in the world, who won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship the week before the Masters tournament?[a] The world didn’t celebrate her victory with similar fanfare. With the increased attention on golf due to Tiger’s triumph at the Masters, now is the time to make bigger strides in the growth and globalization of women’s golf. In my opinion, the Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC) should do more than host a single women’s amateur golf tournament.
The Augusta National, one of the most well-known and prestigious golf clubs in the world, and home to the Masters Tournament, was founded in 1933. According to FITSNews, the club has been infamous for its long held racist and sexist policies, not allowing African American members until 1990, and women until 2012 when former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financer Darla Moore were admitted to the club. According to an article by USA Today, there have been only four female members admitted out of a total of 300, representing slightly over one percent.
It was Chairman of Augusta National, Fred Riley, who announced on April 4, 2018 during last year’s Masters Tournament, that the ANGC would host a female amateur golf tournament the week before the 2019 Masters. Thus, this year was the debut of this Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship (ANA), a 54-hole stroke-play tournament featuring an international field of 72 female golfers. The event was established to inspire a greater interest and participation in women’s golf by presenting the women’s game on a larger and more prominent platform.
While it is commendable for the club to promote women’s golf by hosting a women’s amateur tournament, it needs to consider more fully some of its decisions regarding the event. The amateur championship was held the week before the Masters Tournament, taking place on the same weekend as the ANA Inspiration Championship, one of the five major tournaments in women’s professional golf. The ANA Inspiration includes four exemptions for the top female amateurs who are invited to play. However, these same top female amateurs also received invitations to play at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. These female amateurs should not be put in a position to have to make the difficult decision of choosing between these two events. The ANGC should coordinate more closely with the Ladies Professional Golf Association to stop this occurrence from happening again. Furthermore, only the final 18 holes of the Women’s Amateur Championship were actually played at the Augusta National golf course. The initial 36 holes were hosted at the Champions Retreat Golf Club, located 20 minutes from Augusta National, with the top 30 players advancing to the final round. Just like the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship should have all its rounds played at Augusta National.
There is no reason why a Women’s Masters can’t be established. In professional tennis, both men and women compete in the same four Grand Slams at the same venues and same time, allowing for greater gender equality and integration[b]. In professional golf, men and women also both compete in four Grand Slams throughout the year (the Evian Championship is the fifth women’s major considered a Super Grand Slam). Only three of them, however, are the same as men’s: the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and British Open. But these tournaments are at different locations and on different dates. The other women’s Grand Slam, the ANA Inspiration, is sort of equivalent to the Masters, being thought of as the most prestigious. While the introduction of a women’s amateur tournament held at a once male-only golf club is a good start, it is not a big enough step. The Masters Tournament, like Wimbledon in tennis, has the prestige and platform to impact the sport of golf globally that no other golf event can do. The Augusta National is able to push the boundaries and set the stage for greater equality for women through its female amateur tournament. With this much influence, nothing should hold them back from fully allowing female professional golfers to compete on one of the largest stages in the world.