Augusta Making History, Bit by Bit, Announces Next Installment
Georgia Hall must be around twenty-two or twenty-three years old about now. She’s just getting started in the pros after a terrific amateur career. In terms of her first success in the pros, it’s a little like biting the apple in the garden. Her win came at the Women’s British Open, and winning the national title in one’s own country can leave you with a fearsome taste for more. Hearing Hall speak of the possibility of establishing a major for women in the hallowed halls of Augusta makes me think that she can’t stand the idea of something out there she isn’t allowed to win. In my opinion, it’s a great way to think, and she should just go on thinking that way, because one of these days it just might happen. Augusta is getting warmer after it turned a corner, inviting former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and South Carolina business whiz Darlene Moor to become the first female members. But the Masters? What would need to change in order to procure that? You can’t have tournaments every week, of course. There are members who would like to play their own course from time to time, but I’ll bet that could be worked out.
The LPGA has been on an upward climb pretty much all the way through its present administration. The tournament schedule has expanded, added a lot of interesting geography, increased television coverage, and a purse that is slowly inching up. That trajectory has not gone unnoticed by Masters Chairman Fred Riley, and he is ready to take the next step. On April 6, a new event has been added. No, it’s not the chip and putt contest. It’s a real 54-hole tournament with invited guests, all of them women. In fact, the best 72 in the world are coming from the amateur ranks for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Riley believes that it could be the most widely attended and watched amateur event in the world, for just about any sport. That brings Hall’s dreams of a Masters tournament for women one step closer.
Hall and others are looking for that all-defining symbol of a tournament that stands as the LPGA’s biggest jewel in the golf crown. Such a thing is possible through several scenarios. To latch on to the Masters would catapult the LPGA’s already healthy profile into the stars. To create a new event somewhere in the world, groom and nurture it as it slowly grows in reputation, is the slower way. Some existing events may at some point enjoy such a prestigious aura. The cross-section of the male golf world that has an overly macho image of the game will have to expand its life view while the well-rounded golf devotees gain traction, but that will happen as well. Many of us could care less whether you hit it 350 every time out. That sizzles for a while, but come on. There’s the rest of the game out there to watch.
There is also the issue about equal prize money, usually dependent on equal sponsorship and fan base. Some additional progress is being made here as well. On the way is a thing called “Risk and Reward” holes, sprinkled here and there throughout the tournament year. On those holes, a player’s two best scores are combined and either rewarded or penalized. A female player could win over three quarters of a million U.S. But that Masters thing. I didn’t used to think it would happen, but I’m not so sure anymore. I can just see it now, Condoleeza and Darlene hitting the ceremonial shots, or maybe some veterans from the early women’s game. Regardless, it’s going well for the LPGA, and I hope that some day, Georgia Hall gets her wish. She and her colleagues have the game to make it work.
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