AUGUSTA, Ga. — Wednesday was not a exceptional day at Augusta Nationwide as a result of girls’s golf was the principle topic of dialog through the Masters.
Wednesday was a exceptional day at Augusta Nationwide as a result of girls’s golf was the principle topic of dialog through the Masters, and the lads who run America’s most unique membership really did not appear to thoughts it. Properly, they did not appear to thoughts a lot of the dialog, anyway.
Membership chairman Fred Ridley and his fellow inexperienced jackets took a bow over the success of final week’s inaugural girls’s newbie occasion, a event that his predecessor, Billy Payne, promised solely 4 years in the past would by no means, ever occur. It actually was a lovely factor. So stunning, in reality, that LPGA legend Nancy Lopez informed ESPN.com that she had chills when the announcement of the occasion was first made and that she couldn’t imagine girls “have been really going to take a divot at Augusta Nationwide” in competitors.
Ridley spoke of being shocked by the “emotional response” to the sight of girls taking part in on God’s greenest earth and out of God’s whitest sand. He spoke of how the annual girls’s newbie could have a serious influence on the expansion of the sport, and of how Saturday’s closing spherical felt like a Masters Sunday. He spoke of the various members who approached him to say that they had by no means been prouder to belong to the membership.
Nancy Lopez would like to see much more girls’s golf competitions at Augusta Nationwide. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports activities
“I believe it made us a greater group,” the chairman stated.
And a hearty amen at Amen Nook to that.
However when requested why Augusta Nationwide would not take into account internet hosting knowledgeable event that includes the perfect gamers on this planet, prefer it does on the lads’s aspect, Ridley landed his response in Rae’s Creek. The chairman repeated that the membership’s historical past is tethered to newbie golf, because it was co-founded by the best newbie of all, Bobby Jones, and that selling younger gamers makes them extra marketable on arrival on the LPGA Tour.
After all, Ridley did not adequately clarify how the membership’s romantic ties to the newbie excellent jibes with the truth that it hosts the game’s most prestigious skilled event for males. He described the Masters as “the epicenter” of the membership and one which wanted to be protected. In different phrases, membership elders weren’t about to tear up the course earlier than the lads teed it up, or probably subtract from the singular magnitude of the Masters by internet hosting one other skilled occasion.
“These issues are solvable with slight tweaks to the schedule,” stated Dr. Martha Burk, who famously went to battle with Augusta Nationwide in a special life. “Rising girls’s golf is a fairly nebulous time period. My concern is, was this a PR stunt or is it actually the beginning of one thing of substance?”
As head of the Nationwide Council of Girls’s Organizations, Burk as soon as raged in opposition to the membership’s male-only membership and staged a protest close to its gates in 2003. Hootie Johnson, Augusta Nationwide’s hopelessly old-school chair, responded by explaining that he wasn’t invited when his 4 daughters celebrated his spouse’s birthday at their lake home.
“It is simply been happening for hundreds of years and centuries that males prefer to get along with males now and again, and ladies prefer to get along with girls now and again,” Johnson stated on the time. “And that is only a easy reality of life in America.”
In a telephone interview with ESPN.com 16 years later, Burk conceded that Augusta Nationwide had taken some long-overdue steps within the course of frequent decency and equity. Payne erased Johnson’s mistake by welcoming the membership’s first two feminine members in 2012 (the membership now has six feminine members) and by calling it “a joyous event.” Ridley then erased Payne’s mistake by establishing a girls’s event outlined by nice optics and nice golf.
“But when we had not performed what we did,” Burk stated Wednesday, “they’d be precisely the place they have been in 2003. I’ve little question about that.
“I did the maths, and on the present price it may be about 200 years earlier than we attain parity with the variety of feminine and male members. Girls are nonetheless very a lot a token there. Taking part in one spherical of an newbie occasion there, in my opinion, might be tokenism on somewhat increased degree.”
On cue, Ridley did not see it that method in any respect. He maintained that the newbie event served to “shine a shiny mild on the wonderful accomplishments of girls in every single place,” and requested the guardians and followers of golf “to introduce girls of all ages to this sport, a relative, a pal, a colleague at work.”
Jennifer Kupcho placed on a present within the first-ever Augusta Nationwide Girls’s Beginner. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Photographs
On one degree, for these current for the bygone performances of Hootie and the Blowhards, it was gorgeous to listen to an Augusta Nationwide chief speak about girls in an inclusive method. On one other degree, it was embarrassing to suppose that in 2019 anybody must say this stuff and challenge these challenges, by no means thoughts anybody from a membership that lengthy made exclusion a matter of coverage.
Requested by USA At present columnist Christine Brennan to concede it was a mistake to maintain girls out of the membership for therefore lengthy, Ridley missed a golden alternative in his information convention to man up and categorical contrition for what was a mortal sin. The chairman stated solely, “We be taught from the previous,” and emphasised his want to give attention to the long run.
“It is OK to encourage the general public,” Burk stated, “however what it’s essential do is present true management because the 900-pound gorilla. Simply encouraging different individuals to get their neighbors to play golf when the infrastructure of girls’s golf — philosophically and bodily — is lower than the requirements of males’s golf is somewhat disingenuous.
“I actually hope Augusta Nationwide goes additional than phrases. Extra questions have to be requested, as a result of this kind of become an admiration-fest, the place they did one thing minor to make themselves look good. To me this can be a child step, however not less than it’s a step.”
Twenty years in the past, Brennan, the columnist, requested Hootie Johnson why there weren’t extra African-Individuals in his membership and why there weren’t any girls in any respect. The chairman shut down the inquiry as an alleged non-public membership matter not designed to be mentioned publicly, and Brennan did not precisely really feel the assist within the press room, amongst her credentialed friends, that she felt Wednesday.
Progress is a glacial idea on this throwback enviornment. Now the plain query must be requested: Will Augusta Nationwide ever invite the world’s greatest feminine gamers onto the game’s related stage?
“I believe they felt they wanted to begin with the amateurs,” stated Lopez, the Corridor of Famer who grew up watching Masters telecasts together with her father. “I do not know if the professionals will ever play right here. The gents have their event, and to have one other occasion, I do not know if that may be potential.”
Requested if she wish to see the LPGA make an annual cease at Augusta Nationwide, Lopez stated, “Oh, I’d like to see that.”
Who would not? Ridley deserves credit score for ignoring Payne’s 2015 declare that the membership’s comparatively quick member season and in depth Masters prep would forestall it from ever internet hosting one other occasion. However Ridley’s rationalization for sticking with feminine amateurs quite than the professionals was the worst swing of the week.
This should not be too troublesome. Filter per week in late Might or early June — after the membership closes — that does not battle with the U.S. Girls’s Open, and let the LPGA’s stars have at it.
“We’re sure to a convention of fixed enchancment,” Ridley stated.
Augusta Nationwide ought to maintain that custom going, and embrace the plain. One of the simplest ways to develop the ladies’s sport is to advertise the perfect girls’s gamers. Instantly.