ANWA winner Jennifer Kupch with Chairman Fred Ridley (ANWA image)
Wednesday at the Masters not only means the Par 3 Contest, but also is traditionally the day that the Chairman of Augusta National gives his State of the Masters address.
A year ago when Chairman Fred Ridley addressed the media, he dropped a bombshell in announcing the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. A year later, reaction to the event was a major source of interest. Saturday’s back-nine duel for the ANWA title created interest and showcased the kind of strong play that is normal in women’s amateur golf.
In his remarks, Ridley mentioned how well-received the event has been not just among golf fans, but among staff, partners, sponsors and members. The emotional response of last week was something Ridley said he didn’t anticipate.
“I think I was really heartened by our staff and the way that our staff really was motivated and inspired by this effort,” he said. “I think it made us a better organization. I'm also very proud to hear so many members who have come up to me and say how proud they are, and to say that they have never been prouder to be a member of Augusta National.”
Ridley fielded questions about whether the creation of the ANWA might eventually lead to the creation of a women’s professional event. For now, it seems, the focus of Augusta National’s game-growing initiatives is firmly in the amateur game (see: Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur). Consider that the long reach of the late Bobby Jones, generally regarded as the most accomplished amateur golfer ever to play the game.
“What we would like to do, and hopefully will achieve, is doing things that will benefit professional golf, benefit professional women's golf, and all of golf,” Ridley said. ”But by promoting women amateurs, the future stars of the (LPGA), we'd like to think that that is something that's going to benefit them, as well, and I think that the LPGA would agree. So that's the track we are going to continue to take.”
In a roundabout way, Ridley also addressed why the first two rounds of the ANWA were staged at Champions Retreat instead of at Augusta National. That was perhaps the source of the loudest criticism for the event.
Ridley described the Masters as the epicenter of Augusta’s “competitive tournament administration efforts,” which limits how the golf course can be used each spring.
“We were trying to balance providing the women competitors with the opportunity to be at Augusta National, to have a championship decided at Augusta National, but yet be cognizant of the fact that we were just a few days away from the Masters Tournament,” he said.
ABOUT THE The Masters
One of Golf's four professional majors
traditionally invites amateurs who have reached
finals of the US Amateur, or won the British
the US Mid Amateur. Also included are
the winners of the relatively new Asia Pacific
and Latin American Amateur.
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