Forgive me if I don't join in the Augusta backslapping
Six days ago I was awoken by a message from a friend asking for my thoughts on the Augusta National Women’s Amateur promo video.
Initially bleary eyed, I quickly woke up as the pumping music of Rozes’ Halfway There accompanied by a montage of pioneering and iconic sporting moments for women played out, culminating with a woman taking a tee shot on Augusta.
Well, I dropped my handkerchief and clutched my pearls never did I think I’d see the day!
Of course it was announced in early 2018 that the final round of competition was to be played at Augusta, but this was the first video really promoting it.
— Augusta National Women's Amateur (@anwagolf) March 28, 2019
Getting swept up in the moment I initially responded it’s an historic moment and a good thing for women’s golf, which I think we can all agree that it ultimately is.
But – and it’s a big but – there is something unsettling for me about how Augusta has gone about the scheduling of the event and the promotion of it.
First of all, it clashes with the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. As if women’s golf didn’t struggle enough for decent coverage and attention.
Worse still, prominent golf journalists have written articles about why they have made the “difficult choice” to cover an amateur competition over a professional women’s major.
Yes it is historic that women are going to be playing Augusta for the first time, but can you ever imagine the scenario of male sporting journalists choosing to cover an amateur competition over one of the men’s majors? I don’t think so!
Imagine being one of the LPGA Tour players who have dedicated their whole lives to playing and competing at the top level to essentially be trumped by not so much another competition but by a venue.
A place on the map.
It also seems like an odd choice to have an amateur event as the first one ever played there. Why not a women’s professional event? That seems another kick in the teeth to me, as opposed to taking women’s golf seriously as a professional sport.
Now on to the promotion of the event. Where to start with this? The tagline that accompanies the video: “Every moment begins with a motion, and every motion builds momentum”. From what I remember of secondary school physics, that sounds about right.
The visuals feature female sporting legends and defining moments from them: Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, gymnast Simone Biles, Lindsey Vonn, Annika Sorenstam, and many more. On Twitter they haven’t even kept it to sporting women, they’ve featured the likes of Sandra O’Connor, the first ever female Supreme Court Justice, Kathryn Bigelow, the first female director to win an Oscar, and so on.
All the images are accompanied with a tagline along the lines of “These are the defining moments that inspire”, along with their chosen hashtag: #ANWAgolf.
Can we all just take a moment to remember what Augusta is and what it actually represents?
It is the whitest, oldest boys’ club there is. It only accepted black members after 1990. Before 1983 all caddies had to be black. It only invited women to become members in 2012. It is precisely because of golf clubs like Augusta that women have had to fight so hard to be seen and get the stage and spotlight they deserve.
So for it to use images of Olympic champion swimmer Gertrude Ederle becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926 and claim inspiration is nothing short of insulting.
To claim they are in any way pioneers for women’s sport by allowing them to play there in 2019 is insulting.
To not come clean and say “we are finally doing what we should have done a long time ago and sharing this stage with the best female golfers in the world” is insulting.
So no, sorry Augusta, but you cannot rock up to the party of realising women play golf too with a box of squashed chocolates you bought from the local garage and expect us to be grateful.
I’m absolutely all for what you are doing now and I wish the girls competing there this week all the luck in the world, but my focus will remain on the venues and competitions which treat women golf pros with the respect they deserve.