Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley admits he was stunned by the reaction to the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur event.
Ridley was uncertain what to expect after a mixed response following the announcement Augusta would stage its first-ever women’s amateur championship.
He said that following Jennifer Kupcho’s landmark victory he was surprised at how well received the event had been – not just among golf fans, but among staff, partners, sponsors and members. The emotional response of the week was something Ridley said he didn’t anticipate.
“I think I was really heartened by our staff and the way that our staff really was motivated and inspired by this effort,” he said. “I think it made us a better organisation. I’m also very proud to hear so many members who have come up to me and say how proud they are, and to say that they have never been prouder to be a member of Augusta National.”
Ridley was asked about whether the creation of the ANWA might eventually lead to a new women’s professional event at Augusta.
“What we would like to do, and hopefully will achieve, is doing things that will benefit professional golf, benefit professional women’s golf, and all of golf,” Ridley said.
“But by promoting women amateurs, the future stars of the (LPGA), we’d like to think that that is something that’s going to benefit them, as well, and I think that the LPGA would agree. So that’s the track we are going to continue to take.”
Ridley also explained why the first two rounds of the ANWA were staged at Champions Retreat instead of at Augusta National – a source of some criticism.
Ridley described the Masters as the key to Augusta’s “competitive tournament administration efforts”, which limits how the golf course can be used each spring.
“We were trying to balance providing the women competitors with the opportunity to be at Augusta National, to have a championship decided at Augusta National, but yet be cognisant of the fact that we were just a few days away from the Masters Tournament,” he said.