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Inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur Was A Success


The Masters Tournament starts tomorrow in Augusta, Ga. And we're going to hear a lot about Tiger Woods and other players. But USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan has been thinking about something else that just happened in the male-dominated world of golf.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Hell has frozen over, and it's actually a good thing.

GREENE: Brennan has been in Augusta over the past week. And on Saturday, she covered an amateur women's championship. This event marked the first time women have ever competed on the storied Augusta golf course.

BRENNAN: Some golf clubs started opening their doors in the '90s, but Augusta National did not. And because it's a private club, of course, David, it can do whatever it wants. But because they're hosting the Masters, one of the four men's major golf tournaments every year, and in fact because they've become the public face of golf, there was a lot of scrutiny. I came down here for the first time 20 years ago and asked a question about if they had women members, if they had African-American members, and how many - was told that was a club matter and all club matters are private.

GREENE: Wow. Did you face discrimination as a female journalist at the club? Or they didn't do that kind of thing.

BRENNAN: Well, no, in that sense, but I did see at the first - 1999, the first press conference that I attended, they called on the men, older members calling on people for questions in the press conference. And they'd say, sir, yes, sir, over here, sir. And then when they called on a woman, it would be the little lady down front. And literally I felt, David, that I'd left my home in Washington, D.C., come down to Augusta and entered the 1940s.

GREENE: When you watch the women playing on that course in this amateur tournament just days ago, I mean, do you think they felt the weight of something important, or were they just out there playing the best golf they could?

BRENNAN: I think they did, and that's what made them so terrific. Jennifer Kupcho is the top-ranked amateur in the world, a senior at Wake Forest, and she won the tournament - had a terrific performance on Saturday. There were two days of the tournament at another golf course and then the final day Saturday in Augusta National. That was historic. That was the first time the women had ever been able to play a tournament. And then Kupcho's best - one of her best friends and rivals of course, Maria Fassi, Arkansas senior, was second. What they put on was a majestic show of sportsmanship and class - fist bumping each other, cheering each other on even as they so desperately wanted to win. I think they absolutely rose to the moment, and also, David, so did Augusta National. I saw at least 100 of the 300 members of Augusta National, in their green jackets, walking the course. So I will say that even though it took them a long time to get to this point, the members of Augusta National did put on quite a show for the women and showcasing these terrific female golfers.

GREENE: Does this make up for years of discrimination?

BRENNAN: David, they're trying, but I think it's too little, too late. I mean, if they had put on women's tournament 20 years ago, what would golf look like today? Instead, they put up a stop sign. And at the exact same time as the Augusta National is doing that, you've got this Title IX revolution, this wave of women athletes. They're running marathons and doing triathlons and doing yoga and after-work leagues for soccer leagues or volleyball. And they're going to do that and spend money on that the rest of their lives. They're not playing golf. And for the greatest capitalists among us, the men who play golf - and some women - to see them choose sexism over capitalism, over selling golf balls and selling golf clothes and selling golf equipment to 51 percent of the population was stunning. And I watched it happen and wrote about it for 20 years, so it's great to see the women on the golf course now. But I think the message comes way too late for the game of golf.

GREENE: USA Today sports columnist and frequent guest on our program, which is great for us, that's Christine Brennan.

Christine, thanks.

BRENNAN: David, my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.