Golf: Augusta National chairman dismisses idea of a women's Masters

Fred Ridley speaks to members of the media during the final practice round for the 2019 Masters Tournament. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AUGUSTA, United States (AFP) - Augusta National Golf Club is still basking in the glow of its first Women's Amateur, but don't expect a women's Masters featuring the world's top female pros at the fabled Georgia club.

"Our focus throughout our history has been on, as far as our efforts to promote the game outside of the Masters have always been, on amateur golf," Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said on the eve of the Masters on Wednesday (April 10).

"I think 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. But by promoting women amateurs, the future stars of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, 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."

A field of 72 of the world's top women amateurs competed last week in the 54-hole tournament, the first two rounds taking place at neighbouring Champions Retreat before the top 30 played the final round at Augusta National - the club founded in 1933 that excluded women until 2012.

American Jennifer Kupcho won the inaugural title, firing three birdies and an eagle in the last six holes for a four-shot victory over Mexico's Maria Fassi.

Tiger Woods, a four-time winner of the Masters, was impressed by the quality of golf on view in the final round.

"They only got one practice round in, so for them to learn a golf course like this, in one day, and go out there and perform like they did, it was incredible," he said.

"It was incredible to see, and I think that it adds to the allure of Augusta National and the Masters tournament, and I think what they have done for women's golf is a huge step in the right direction."

Ridley said he hadn't anticipated the "emotional response" to the event, from players, their families and Augusta National club membership and staff.

"I think it made us a better organisation," he said, although he refused to be drawn on whether the club erred in refusing to admit women members for so long.

"No matter what the issue is, you know, we can always look back and say we could do better. No question," he said.

"But what I think is most productive is to look at where we are today, realise that throughout the history of this club, we have promoted the game, and we have now identified a really important segment, the fastest growing segment of the game, that we can help make a difference."

He said whether a greater impact would be made by hosting the best women professionals was "a matter of opinion" and the Masters remains the "epicentre" of Augusta National's competitive tournament administration.

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