What are the odds on Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley announcing a Women’s Masters when he holds his traditional press conference on the eve of the opening round of this year’s Masters?
Ridley and the rest of the green jackets have surely frequently discussed evening up its contribution to the game by affording the top women professionals the same courtesy as the best male golfers? Many say it’s about time, considering the men have an 88-year head start.
Maybe that’s why Ridley had a wee word with Phil MickCharlatan and asked him not to attend this year’s toonamint, lest the three-time winner’s Saudi Saga ruined Augusta’s big announcement. Ok, I made that up…
The green jackets couldn’t pick a better time to announce a Women’s Masters considering women’s golf is now getting much more respect. The top women’ professionals are still not even close to parity with their male counterparts, but things are improving. The R&A and USGA are making considerable investments in the women’s game with increased prize money for the U.S. Women’s and AIG Women’s Opens. Chevron has announced more prize money now that they’ve become title sponsors of what was once the Dinah Shore. The Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open announced a 33% increase to $2 million for this year’s event at Dundonald, while the Ladies European Tour is playing for record prize money. Surely that’s a vanguard Augusta National wants at the forefront of?
The game’s top women will play the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield this year, just five years after the previously all-male Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers voted to allow female members. There was a time when many of us never thought we’d see the day when women would play Muirfield on an equal footing with men. It took the East Lothian club nearly three centuries, 273 years to be precise, to decide on allowing the other half of the population to join, albeit it required a second vote.
Augusta welcomed women members in 2012, when former U.S, secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina business women Darla Moore joined the club.
That decision was surely part of the pathway to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA), which came into existence in 2018. Surely it’s now time to take the next step and stage a Women’s Masters?
I agree with Australian journalist Rod Morri when he writes on GolfAustralia.com:
“I would contend that the single biggest and most immediate impact they (Augusta National) 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 Augusta National Women’s Amateur 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.”
Imagine the further impact of a Women’s Masters if the green jackets pledged equal prize money for men and women? The signal it would send would be colossal.
Morri concludes his article with the words:
“It likely won’t happen and certainly not any time soon but what a bold statement it would be if it ever did.”
I’m not so sure. Augusta National has made significant contributions to the women’s game through Drive, Chip and Putt and the ANWA. Women’s golf is on the ascendency. The time is ripe for Augusta National to establish a Women’s Masters.
Will Ridley‘s press conference surprise everyone with the words:
“We are proud to announce that Augusta National will host the inaugural Women’s Masters next year...”
#JustSaying: “Our club has enjoyed a camaraderie and a closeness that's served us well for so long, that it makes it difficult for us to consider change. A woman may be a member of this club one day, but that is out in the future." Former Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson, speaking in 2002