Women will be playing in a major championship at Augusta National starting in 2019. No, the LPGA won't have a sixth major (or replace an existing one), but this championship will be a landmark for women's golf.
On April 4, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley announced the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. The tournament, which will conclude on the Saturday before the 2019 Masters (April 6), will feature 72 female amateur players vying for a championship at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts left behind a legacy of always trying to contribute meaningfully to the game of golf.”
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 4, 2018
The tournament will be 54 holes of stroke play, with Champions Retreat in nearby Evans, Ga., hosting the initial 36 holes. A cut will be made to the top 30 players and ties for the final round.
The 72-player field will be largely drawn from the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship invitation criteria
- Invitations will be given to the winners of the US Women's Amateur, Ladies British Open Amateur Championship, Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific, US Girls' Junior, Girls' British Open Amateur Championship and Girls Junior PGA Championship.
- Augusta National Women's Am champions will receive a five-year invitation after winning.
- The top 30 American players not otherwise qualified through the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking will be invited, followed by the next 30 highest-ranked players from that ranking.
- The final spots will be filled with invitations made by the tournament committee.
With the tournament concluding on Saturday before Masters Week, the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals will continue to be held the Sunday before the Masters Tournament.
The logistical questions posed by this tournament are intriguing, as well.
- Will the LPGA continue to play its first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the week prior to the Masters Tournament? The ANA has a history of inviting some amateur players to compete, and Stanford's Albane Valenzuela was a big story for the first three days of the championship.
- Will Masters contestants be prohibited from playing practice rounds on the days of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship?
- Will up-and-coming female amateurs hold off on turning pro to compete in this event, then go to the LPGA?
This announcement continues the commitment made by former chairman Billy Payne to increase the Masters' footprint in golf. Under his leadership, the Masters created the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the Latin America Amateur Championship, both of which offer invitations to the Masters Tournament.