There was an awful lot to like about the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur but that shouldn’t earn the world’s best-known golf club a free pass for what they got wrong.
Social media was awash with high praise for the event and only a curmudgeon would suggest it wasn’t a nett positive for the game, and women’s golf in particular.
But for a club that prides itself on perfection in every sense, the ANWA raised more than a few questions.
First the good: what a show some of the world’s best women amateurs put on at a course revered worldwide for its architectural merit and strategic options. (And what a shame we didn’t get to watch it live in Australia. That ‘Golf on TV’ rant column is inching ever closer!)
Winner Jennifer Kupcho, the world’s highest-ranked amateur player, stormed to victory with a run of five-under-par for the final six holes.
The whirlwind finish was kickstarted by a majestic second shot at the par-5 13th – which resulted in an eagle – and finished with an exclamation point courtesy of a curling 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
It was as thrilling as it was impressive and Kupcho deserves every accolade coming her way.
While the golf was brilliant, the sportsmanship on display was equally so, the interplay between Kupcho and runner-up Maria Fassi – who looked for so long like she would be the winner – the icing on the cake of what was a terrific spectacle.
"Augusta National is to be congratulated for the ANWA initiative but, like the course itself, the image of perfection is just a veneer ... There are underlying issues which need to be addressed if the event is to take its rightful place at the pinnacle of the amateur game."
Away from the course there were countless photos on Twitter of young girls glued to the TV watching the golf and the level of interest was, as expected, off the charts.
All of which is to the good of the game – and in particular the women’s game – but it is hardly the full story.
From the moment the tournament was announced last year it has had at least the feint whiff of ‘token gesture’ about it.
The LPGA wasn't consulted about the date (it clashed with the year’s first major in California) and only one round of the three was played at Augusta National (and that only for the top 30 in the 72 strong field).
Perhaps more troubling, though, was the position several top amateurs found themselves in, forced to choose between accepting an invitation to play the ANWA or a spot in the field at the ANA.
That’s a dilemma no player should be subjected to and Augusta National is wholly responsible for it.
There were similar conundrums for some of the game’s biggest media companies who had to split limited resources to ensure coverage of both events, hardly an ideal scenario for either tournament.
On the whole, Augusta National is to be congratulated for the ANWA initiative but, like the course itself, the image of perfection is just a veneer.
There are underlying issues which need to be addressed if the event is to take its rightful place at the pinnacle of the amateur game.
Alternatively, of course, Augusta could prove it is serious about promoting women’s golf by simply creating a Women’s Masters.
Now THAT would be something everybody could get behind.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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