03 April 2019: Dawn of a New Day, reads the warm welcome on the Augusta National Women’s Amateur website, against an energy filled silhouette of a young woman deep into her beautiful golf swing. History greets you every step of the way when you walk around the carefully manicured surroundings in these parts of Georgia. After all Augusta National is a magical book where turning pages is the same as leafing through the rich history of golf.
The evolution of Augusta National hasn’t been a smooth ride though. Since opening its doors to the world in 1933, the rich expression of its founders – Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts – has found immortality in the sport. But the club had to learn its lessons the hard way. The iconic club barred African Americans until 1990 and women until 2012. Caddies were required to be black for several years, even while black golfers were kept away from the Masters until Lee Elder played in 1975.
Fortunately, though this is a new era at Augusta National. In a fitting tribute to women in golf, the club will host the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur this week, bringing together 72 of the finest young amateurs from all around the world. The tournament is a spectacular way to thrust women’s golf centre stage as well as lay the foundation for a bright future by designing and delivering this wonderful tournament.
By having this event leading right into the Masters, Augusta National has done just the thing needed to provide a great fillip to women’s golf. Bobby Jones was a sworn amateur and he would be delighting in spirit to witness the club turn yet another page in their chequered story around golf.
When the number one ranked amateur, Jennifer Kupcho, drove it up the fairway at the first tee earlier today, a grand new tradition was born in the lap of Augusta National. Needless to say, this annual feature will witness the emergence of several young golfers who shall carry the confidence off these woods into a thriving professional career for years to come.
Kupcho played in the opening group with Olivia Mehaffey of Arizona State and Thai prodigy Atthaya Thitikul. The 72 young women are scheduled to start off the first and tenth tees (9 holes on The Bluff designed by Jack Nicklaus and 9 holes on the Island designed by Arnold Palmer). The field will be cut to just 30 women at the end of Thursday’s second round. Any ties will be resolved in a playoff to leave exactly 30 golfers for the grand finale on Sunday.
The entire field will have the pleasure of a practice round at Augusta National before the final round takes place around the iconic course.
The spectacular trophy has been crafted with a wooden base carved from a magnolia, housing a sterling silver, 24k white gold vermeil trophy that has the flowers that represent each hole engraved into it for posterity.
As this new chapter of history makes its own stories, golf will be served well considering the stature of the club and its influence on the game of golf. The young girls that make their way here to play this week will have this memory etched on their souls, bleeding stories to the end of their lives, several generations into the future.
It is fitting too that the competition is played out in two phases. The girls start their trek around the Champions Retreat, playing nine holes each of the Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed courses. This private club in Augusta is a 27 hole course, with the other nine designed by Gary Player.