Wednesday saw a milestone moment in women's golf as Masters chairman Peter Ridley announced the creation of the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship, the first time women will compete at Augusta National.
The 54-hole strokeplay tournament will see 72 of the best amateur players in the world compete over two rounds at Champions Retreat golf Club in Augusta, with the leading 30 players then contesting the final round at Augusta National on the Saturday before the Masters.
Asked if an event for professional players had been considered, Ridley told a pre-tournament press conference: “The focus on amateur golf is consistent with our history and our co-founder Bobby Jones and we feel that’s the way we can make the greatest impact in growing the game.
“We thought that’s the best way to go, but over time we think it will also be of great benefit to the professional game as well.”
The announcement was warmly welcomed, with six-times Masters champion Jack Nicklaus writing on Twitter: “Fantastic! This is a great thing for the game of golf!”
The tournament is scheduled to take place in the same week as the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s major of the year, but Ridley added: “We have no intentions of competing or taking away from the ANA Inspiration.
“We think that to have one week where the future greats of the game and the current greats of the women’s game are all competing on a big stage is very exciting.
“I’ve talked to Mike Whan (LPGA commissioner) and he understands our motivations for doing this and that from a big picture, this is a win for women’s golf. He also understands that in time it’s going to be a win for the LPGA.”
The field for the tournament will be determined by the winners of various worldwide events – including the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship and Girls’ British Open Amateur – and the Women’s World Amateur golf Ranking.
The winner will not receive a green jacket, like Masters champions, but Ridley added: “We plan to have a very distinctive trophy that will become iconic as well – we just don’t know what it is yet.”
Augusta National admitted its first women members – former American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore – in 2012.
That came a decade after activist Martha Burk stepped up pressure on the club to admit women, to which then chairman Hootie Johnson responded that they would not be forced to change its policies “at the point of a bayonet”.