Augusta National to host women’s tournament ahead of Masters

Augusta National Golf Club opened its competitive doors to women on Wednesday, announcing it would host an amateur championship in another sign attitudes are changing at one of the world’s most exclusive clubs.

Making his first State of the Masters address, Augusta chairman Fred Ridley said the club, that had barred women from membership until six years ago, would welcome the world’s top female amateurs to compete.

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship will take place the week before next year’s U.S. Masters.

“(Club founders) Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts left behind a legacy of always trying to contribute meaningfully to the game of golf,” Ridley, the father of three girls, said.

“The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship embodies that principle, and we believe this event will have a significant and lasting impact on the future of the women’s game.

“Our hope and expectation is that this event will further energize those who already love the sport and inspire others through the dream of competing at Augusta National.”

For decades the thought of being anything other than an employee or an invited guest at Augusta National was just a dream for women.

In the early 2000s with civil rights groups pushing the public to boycott Masters sponsors over Augusta’s men only membership policy, former chairman William “Hootie” Johnson declared the club would not be forced to open its doors to women “at the point of a bayonet”.

Johnson stood firm against mounting pressure and it was not until he stepped down that his successor Billy Payne finally ushered in the first women members in 2012, ending an issue that had reached the White House.

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