Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Those are just some of the biggest names in golf who have played at the beautiful and exclusive Augusta National Golf Club, known for its greenery and iconic azalea flowers. However, there is one group of people who have yet to play a tournament on the hallowed grounds — women.
That changes this April, as the top amateur golfers in the world will gather for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship. The field includes the top 72 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, including three Longhorns: Emilee Hoffman, Agathe Laisne and Kaitlyn Papp.
“In women’s golf, in my opinion, the biggest thing of 2018 was the announcement of this women’s championship,” head coach Ryan Murphy said. “It’s tremendous exposure for the game around the world, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for the women’s game. We’re fortunate to have three players in that field.”
To further put this event in context, Augusta National only started allowing female members to join in 2012, inviting Darla Moore and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to join the all-male club. A tournament like this at a venue like Augusta is an unprecedented step in the right direction for a sport that has largely been a man’s game.
“It’s incredibly prestigious, and I hope it brings more awareness to the women’s game,” Hoffman said. “I know the final round is going to be televised, so I hope a lot of people tune in and realize that women’s golf is just as exciting as men’s golf.”
In addition to the historical significance of the event, some of the golfers involved in the tournament will have a choice to make, as the event falls very close on the calendar to an event on the LPGA tour.
“What will be interesting is the event is close to the ANA Inspiration, which is a major tournament on the LPGA,” Murphy said. “Many of these players will have to choose whether to play in a major or have a chance to play at Augusta National. To think that someone may choose to not play in a major is pretty wild.”
Laisne is no stranger to big events, as the sophomore has already played in both the Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship, both major LPGA tournaments. However, her inclusion in the event came as a surprise, as her spot in the rankings left her very close to the cut line for the tournament.
“I was not expecting to get into this event,” Laisne said. “I looked at the world rankings, and I thought I would be five spots away. When I got the letter I was super excited. I called my mom and said, ‘Oh God, mom, I’m going there!’ No tournament for women has been played there before, so it’s really exciting.”
Meanwhile, Hoffman knew she would be in the field beforehand. Despite this, emotions ran high when she received her letter in the mail inviting her to participate in the tournament.
“I had kind of an idea before,” Hoffman said. “I knew I was inside the top 30 in the rankings for Americans, but I was actually on vacation when they were sending the invitations out. I had my grandma go to my house and constantly check the mail, and when it got there she called us and we started crying.”
At the end of the day, April 3 is going to be the start of a very special and historic tradition, one of both inclusion and equality. A new age of golf is starting, and everyone is welcome.
“Walking through the gates at Augusta is going to be like walking through the gates of heaven,” Papp said. “I can’t wait to see the perfection and all the azalea flowers.”