It was all very sedate and ever so slightly staged. This felt more like an exhibition than a golf tournament. Which, being cynical, may have been precisely what it was – a demonstration by Augusta National Golf Club that prejudicial antics can be considered a thing of the past. For Jennifer Kupcho, the prize: she became the first winner of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

After two rounds at arm’s length – the Champions Retreat in Evans, to be precise – women took to Augusta in a competitive environment for the first time. Whatever one’s perspective, this was a notable point in golf history. Augusta was of a mind to portray it as one giant leap forward for womankind.

The field was 30, the attendance in the thousands, although impossible to quantify entirely. Scoring was less problematic: Kupcho, the world’s top-ranked amateur, produced an excellent 67 to prevail by four shots over Mexico’s Maria Fassi. Kupcho’s 10-under-par aggregate for 54 holes included the completion of Augusta’s historically treacherous last six in minus five.

Augusta has been helped in its publicity quest by fawning social media postings from prominent male golfers and a compliant media, particularly in respect of the host broadcaster. It has been quite the race over the past few days to determine who could offer the most ludicrously over the top analysis of the amateur event. The winner arrived via a television presenter on Friday. “We have been coming here a long, long time. I’m not sure we have ever felt an anticipation and energy like we are here today.” This, amazingly, was delivered with a straight face.

READ  Gary Neville and Gary Lineker in agreement over Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka

On the basis this golf club was castigated for gender discrimination over decades, maybe it is unfair to take potshots over moves to do the right thing. There will unquestionably now be aspiring women golfers who dream of competing at Augusta. Maybe the amateur tournament is a precursor to something more significant. However, it cannot be forgotten that it took until 2012 for women to be afforded membership here. The total is now thought to be six among an overall figure of 300. We are not dealing with revolutionaries here.

Augusta National was once one of the biggest closed shops in sport. Like others in golf – Muirfield being a prime example – it was rather dragged into the 21st century at the point of a bayonet. That people should stop short of now lauding Augusta for endorsing diversity in 2019 seems a rather obvious point.

An opening ceremony featured drives from Pak Se-ri, Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sörenstam. “Aw-right,” boomed Fred Ridley, Augusta’s chairman, as Pak got proceedings underway. Onlookers included Condoleezza Rice, an Augusta member, and the two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson. Ridley had hosted a dinner on Tuesday evening for all players and their families.

“There was a long line after the dinner to thank us for doing this,” said the chairman. “There’s not one day that someone has not come up to me and said: ‘Way to go.’ That really makes me feel good.” It is unclear whether or not Ridley expected any different kind of reaction. Pitchforks?

“We have been blessed with resources,” he added. “I think we have an obligation to utilise them, not only to improve this place and therefore what we do for the Masters tournament but to give back to all segments of the game.”

READ  Anthony Joshua has 30th birthday celebrations disrupted by drug testers

Augusta scheduled this tournament directly against a women’s major, the ANA Inspiration, which poses questions about commitment to the greater good. It was positive to see two amateurs, Patty Tavatanakit and Albane Valenzuela, make the ANA cut after being placed in the tricky scenario of having to choose between Georgia and California.

Scoring was generally high, as was to be expected. Competitors, including those who had missed the cut, were afforded practice time on Friday but the notion that anybody could figure out the nuances of Augusta National so quickly is a faintly ludicrous one.

“Just being here was an incredible opportunity,” insisted England’s Alice Hewson, whose 72 meant 10th place. “No one from outside this group will ever be able to say they were among the first 30 women to play in a competitive event at Augusta National.”

That much is true. The rest is up for debate.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here