Closing Shot: Another historic day at Augusta
History was made on April 6 at Augusta National Golf Club when the final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament took place at the hallowed site of the Masters.
The first two days of the three-day tournament were played at the Champions Retreat Golf Club in nearby Evans, Ga., before the final round moved to the famed course, which served as a high-profile way to roll into Masters week. The event featured compelling golf — Wake Forest University senior Jennifer Kupcho won the tournament before a national audience on NBC and sizable galleries lining the course — and it also gave women’s golf a massive jolt in a rare showcase on one of the most celebrated courses in the world.
The tournament spoke volumes about the changing nature of women’s golf, as the amateurs competed at the famous club that had denied women membership until 2012.
“It was a great sporting event and great championship but also a real social moment and that is what resonated with so many people to see the unbelievably talented women playing golf on one of the most, if not the most, beautiful courses in the world,” said Pete Bevacqua, president of NBC Sports Group and the former CEO of the PGA of America. “The actions on Saturday afternoon and the sportsmanship was a powerful moment not just for golf but for sports in general.”
NBC, which has never had rights to the Masters, took full advantage of covering the women’s amateur by cross-promoting the event on “The Today Show” and various NBC outlets.
“We are honored to be a part of it,” Bevacqua said. “We put all our efforts and resources behind it from an NBC Universal point of view. Our goal is to have the opportunity to do it again. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
NBC will take a year-by-year approach on the rights to the event, which is expected to return to Augusta next year.
The women’s amateur took place the same weekend as the ANA Inspiration, the first major LPGA tournament of the year, which also aired on NBC. The network completed its Saturday coverage of the women’s amateur event and then moved to coverage of the ANA Inspiration from Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
One sure sign of the historic nature of the women’s amateur was the reaction Bevacqua received from all corners of the sports industry.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of texts and emails I received from leaders in other sports outside of the golf community that in essence said ‘Wow, that was an amazing event for sports.’”