Golf

Women amateurs will play Augusta National in 2019. How did that happen?

Defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia watches his drive from the tee box on the 13th hole during his practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. Next year, women will be teeing off from the azalea-banked 13th as part of the Augusta National Women's Amateur
Defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia watches his drive from the tee box on the 13th hole during his practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Augusta, Ga. Next year, women will be teeing off from the azalea-banked 13th as part of the Augusta National Women's Amateur Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

In 2003 Martha Burk, representing the National Council for Women’s Organizations, wrote then Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Hootie Johnson about her concerns over the all-male membership.

When she staged a protest within a gap wedge of Magnolia Lane, the chairman markedly avowed that the club would not be threatened by “the point of a bayonet.”

The club’s angle of attack was to stand firm until, by its own timeline, invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to join.

Fast forward to 2019.

Thanks to the golf club that promotes the game better than most, women will compete at Amen Corner.

“…we believe this event will have a significant and lasting impact on the future of the women’s game,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters.

The world’s best women amateurs will play the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on the Saturday before the 2019 Masters, one day before the Drive, Chip and Putt Finals.

The first 36 holes of the 54-hole championship will be played at the nearby Champions Retreat Golf Club. After a 36-hole cut to the low 30 scores, competitors will make their way to Augusta National Golf Club for the final round.

The club expects the event to be televised and distributed digitally. Daily tickets onto the grounds of ANGC for the final round will also be made available through a random selection process that will be announced at a later date.

Meridian’s Lou Hart, winner of nine Mississippi Women’s Amateurs, is “tickled pink.” The Northwood CC member who has competed on the national stage in eight USGA events added, “I really think Augusta National and Fred Ridley are making the right decision. It’s fabulous. I can’t wait to see how the women handle one of the greatest golf courses in the world.”

Cissye Gallagher, 12-time Mississippi Women’s Amateur champion, wishes she was younger.

“It’s so exciting. I can remember when I was 10 or 11 realizing that I would never be able to play at Augusta,” said the wife of recent Rapiscan competitor Jim Gallagher, Jr.

The former LSU golfer who has played in almost 20 USGA events has watched her husband play several practice rounds at ANGC but has never played the course.

Their daughter Kathleen, who plays at LSU, just might have a chance to do something her mother has not been able to do.

And Hannah Levi, senior at D’Iberville High School and Mississippi State signee, just might be looking forward to Saturday, April 6, 2019 as well.

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