Women finally get their day at Augusta

AUGUSTA • Seventy-two women tread golf's hallowed turf this week in what will be a significant moment for what was once sport's most exclusive all-boys club.

The inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur is a milestone, given that the sport has long been weighed down by a self-imposed millstone.

It is nearly 17 years since an eye-popping row about sexual equality when Hootie Johnson, the club's late chairman, countered criticism with paraffin by declaring it would not be bullied into changing its stance on women "at the point of a bayonet".

It is hard then to see the tournament, whose winner will be crowned on Saturday, as anything but a turning point.

Calling the championship as "fantastic for women's golf", Sweden's 10-time Major champion Annika Sorenstam said: "Young girls are going to be energised and motivated by seeing this event unfold for years to come."

A 2003 protest over the club's lack of female members set the wheels of change in motion, but it was only until August 2012 that then United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore broke its gender barrier.

While "things at Augusta don't happen very rapidly", former US women's amateur champion Kay Cockerill feels "the wheel is moving".

Expressing her hope that women might some day play shots through Amen Corner in their own elite event, she said: "I don't know if you have to have a women's Masters, but I'd like to pipe dream and that would be the ultimate end point."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'Women finally get their day at Augusta'. Print Edition | Subscribe