What a show the talented young women put on at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at the weekend.
And what a shame we don’t get to see the game’s top women professionals afforded the same opportunity.
It’s just one more item to add to the list of reasons Augusta National always evokes mixed feelings.
There is no question the impact of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is a nett positive for the women’s game, but it is equally true that it has its downsides.
The scheduling issue against the first women’s major of the year has been an unnecessary thorn in the side of the LPGA (and some of the world’s best amateurs) since its first playing in 2019.
And while the Dinah Shore/ANA/Chevron was on shaky ground regardless, the ANWA might have been one of the final straws in its demise at Mission Hills in California as of 2022.
As for the ANWA event itself, there is an undeniable element of tokenism about the week.
Less than half the field get to play a competitive round at Augusta National, 36 of the 54 holes taking place at nearby Champions Golf Club despite the tournament name.
Sure, all 72 players get to play a practise round at Augusta but it’s a case of pretty much all of the plaudits with none of the pitch marks for one of the world’s most revered layouts.
Women aside, Augusta National continues to perplex.
The course is the best ad year in and year out for strategic architecture, especially at the highest levels of the game.
Wide fairways and big greens don’t conspire to make the game ‘too easy’ for the very best, they combine to make the spectacle a thrilling one almost without fail.
"I would contend that the single biggest and most immediate impact they could have would be simply to add a Women’s Masters to the schedule. Even if it is a little inconvenient." - Rod Morri.
On the flip side, the course’s almost unfeasibly impeccable condition adds to the golf public’s unrelenting demand for perfect playing surfaces.
While not solely responsible by any means, Augusta National have played their part in promoting hyper green golf which in many cases means over watered.
Still, for all that, it is universally accepted that there is no better sporting event in the world to attend as a fan.
From the restricted crowd numbers ensuring a good experience to the ridiculously cheap (by today’s standards) food and drink available on course, it seems nobody has ever had a bad experience there as a fan.
Augusta National and The Masters get so much right yet there remains so much more they could do, especially in the area of women’s golf.
The extraordinary success of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur proves the appetite for seeing talented women tackle the course.
Which makes the next logical question: so why is there no Women’s Masters?
The answer is always along the lines of it not suiting the club because of a short season and the logistics of hosting a major event.
There is no doubt some validity to that but does Augusta National have a deeper responsibility to the game?
They – rightly – trumpet their ‘Grow the Game’ initiatives like the Drive, Chip & Putt and Latin American and Asia Pacific Amateur events.
Yet I would contend that the single biggest and most immediate impact they could have would be simply to add a Women’s Masters to the schedule. Even if it is a little inconvenient.
When Fred Ridley announced the launch of the ANWA in 2018 the golf world went into meltdown. Imagine if a similar announcement about the world’s best women pros was forthcoming?
Aside from immediately becoming one of the two or three most important tournaments in the game it would send an important message about equality.
In one fell swoop the game’s most influential club could accelerate the cause of women’s golf by decades while at the same time earning the respect and admiration of people both inside and outside the sport.
It likely won’t happen and certainly not any time soon but what a bold statement it would be if it ever did.