Augusta National Golf Club will host its first women’s tournament starting next year.
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship will be a 54-hole tournament to be held annually, with the first two rounds to be played at nearby Champions Retreat before the event moves south to Augusta National for the Saturday final round the weekend before the Masters.
The tournament – the club's first for women in its 84-year history and only six years after it admitted a first female member – is the largest change to date under new chairman Fred Ridley, who succeeded Billy Payne last year.
"Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts left behind a legacy of always trying to contribute meaningfully to the game of golf," Ridley said today.
"The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship embodies that principle and we believe this event will have a significant and lasting impact on the future of the women’s game.
"Our hope and expectation is that this event will further energise those who already love the sport and inspire others through the dream of competing at Augusta National."
But not all were thrilled with the event's timing, including Australia's seven-time major champion Karrie Webb, who wasn't happy the event would coincide with the year's first women's major, the ANA Inspiration.
"While I appreciate the thought and tremendous opportunity for the top female amateurs to compete at one of the most iconic courses in the world, was any thought given to the fact that at the LPGA (Tour's) first major the top female, amateurs compete there?" Webb wrote on Twitter.
Ridley promised the new tournament would finish early on an east-coast Saturday afternoon, allowing clear air for the rest of the weekend.
"We have no intentions of competing or taking away from the ANA Inspiration," he said.
But Webb, a huge advocate for the development of emerging amateurs, was not so sure.
"What about the amateurs that want to compete in both? And should be able to?" she wrote.
"Why put them with such a thought decision?"
Ridley said he'd discussed the issue with LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan.
"Mike understands our motivations for doing this. Our motivation to try to help grow the women's game," Ridley said.
"I think he also understands and agrees wholeheartedly that from a big picture this is a win for women's golf, and I think he also understands that in time it's going to be a win for the LPGA."
The 54-hole, stroke play tournament will feature an international field of 72 players set through invitations of recognised championships and by the World Amateur Golf Rankings. After two rounds, there will be a cut to the low 30 scores, with the final round at Augusta National.
Ridley said the plan would be to televise the event globally and set up a lottery for tickets.