No women’s Masters in Augusta National’s future, says chairman

Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley presents Jennifer Kupcho with the trophy after she won the inaugural National Women’s Amateur championship at Augusta National Golf Club. (Reuters pic)

AUGUSTA: Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley on Wednesday threw cold water on the idea of one day hosting a women’s Masters alongside the men’s major.

Augusta National, which did not have a woman member until seven years ago, held its first women’s tournament last week on the same course that will play host to the men’s major.

Ridley, however, said the club has no plans to take another step and develop a women’s Masters.

“To date, all of our grow-the-game initiatives have been focused on amateur golf and amateur golfers,” said Ridley during the Augusta National chairman’s annual address on Wednesday.

“In this particular case, we elected to conduct a women’s amateur tournament for really that same reason, but we really wanted this to continue in a grow-the-game sort of mode.

“As to what we might do next, I’m still thinking about last Saturday, so I’ll start thinking about that next week.”

For many the next logical step is for Augusta to organise a women’s Masters. The idea, however, does not seem to excite the Augusta membership.

While Augusta National is best known as the home of the Masters, Ridley believes the club is better serving the amateur roots of co-founders Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones and developing the sport by giving its name to a women’s amateur competition.

“I think part of that kind of goes back to history and that is that Augusta National was founded, co-founded by the greatest amateur of all time,” said Ridley.

After opening its doors to women members in 2012, Augusta National has since made efforts to promote and develop women’s golf, but some in the game remain frustrated by what they see as the painfully slow pace of change.

Asked if the club’s failure to confront its restrictive policies had stunted the growth of the women’s game, Ridley said they could have done better.

“No matter what the issue is, you know, we can always look back and say we could do better,” said Ridley. “No question.

“But what my focus is, is on the future and where we are now and where we want to go. We learn from the past.

“But what I think is most productive is to look at where we are today, realise that throughout the history of this club, we have promoted the game and we have now identified a really important segment, the fastest growing segment of the game – that we can help make a difference.”