Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley: ANWA has exceeded expectations

Courtesy: Augusta National

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley: ANWA has exceeded expectations

Augusta National Women's Amateur

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley: ANWA has exceeded expectations

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sofia Anokhina was driving to practice when she got a call from Augusta, Ga. Within seconds Anokhina was crying so hard that she had to pull off the side of the road. The Arizona State senior calmed herself down the point that she could speak.

“Yes,” one hundred times over was the answer. Invitations to compete at Augusta National aren’t taken lightly, especially from a player like Anokhina, who on Saturday will become the first Russian – male or female – to compete at golf’s most treasured sanctuary.

Her feelings only grew stronger when she stood on the clubhouse balcony overlooking Magnolia Lane on Tuesday evening.

“I think that was a very strong and powerful message to all of us that we are here,” she said. “We made our first step in here, and we will make many more steps here.”

Even before the first ball is struck on Saturday, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said his expectations have already been exceeded. The event took on a new feel when it went from facts and figures on a piece of paper to flesh and blood.

SCORES: Augusta National Women’s Amateur leaderboard

One of the unexpected benefits of the ANWA, Ridley said, was what it’s done for his staff. Men and women alike throughout Augusta National Golf Club are taken with the ANWA, he continued, and it has benefited the organization in ways that go beyond this tournament.

“Seeing the smiles on the faces and the joy,” said Ridley, “I guess that’s the right word, you can’t really put on a piece of paper.”

The club has made an effort to make everything about Saturday’s round feel exactly like the Masters. With the exception of Berckmans Place not being open and shorter yardage, the organization and execution of the event was “Masters-like, to a tee.”

Now that the tournament has turned from concept to names and faces and personalities, Ridley’s expectations of what this could do for women’s golf as a whole has amplified as well since he first began considering it in the fall of 2017.

“What I’m hoping is that showing these women in an iconic setting to show their skills and the elite athletes that they are, is going to be very inspiring to them as they leave and as they go back to their schools and homes and their countries, but also is going to be somewhat infectious and inspiring to other people,” said Ridley.

“The kids that are playing in the Drive, Chip and Putt, they can say Gee, I can be back here playing the big course someday. That’s really part of it. The other part of what I’ve been focusing on the last few days, from a larger sense, and I think our sponsors have realized this and emphasized this, is focusing on women’s accomplishments in general, not just in golf and sports. It kind of leads you to think about recognizing that as well. I think anything that does that is good for society, I think it’s good for everybody.”

Not a day goes by, Ridley said, that a member doesn’t come up and say “Way to go” in regards to the ANWA. He’s talked to a dozen Masters participants who say the same. Two days ago he spent several minutes with Tiger Woods, who was not only interested and complimentary, but informed about the format.

“You could tell they were really into it,” Ridley said.

So are the women, many of whom played Augusta National for the first time on Friday in better-than-expected weather.

Maria Fassi, who currently sits one shot off the lead, found herself shaking on the 12th tee.

“I was like, it is a practice round,” said Fassi. “Like why are you shaking? I mean, just the amount of history that there is out here, it’s amazing. We’re just really lucky to be out here.”

Zoe Campos, 16, is on spring break this week and delivered what’s probably the understatement of the week.

“It’s probably the best spring break I’ve ever had,” she said, walking off Augusta National for the first time. Campos sits four back of leader Jennifer Kupcho.

Asked what’s next for Augusta, Ridley said it’s only limited by imagination.

“I will say we have been blessed with resources, and I think we have an obligation to utilize them,” said Ridley. “Not only to improve this place and therefore what we do for the Masters Tournament, but to give back to all segments of the game. It’ll take time. We try to do things thoughtfully and deliberately, not just jump into something, but there will be more opportunities. We will not be hesitant to pursue those.”

Saturday’s final round tee times

Tee time (ET) Pairing
8:00 a.m. Anna Redding, Ainhoa Olarra
8:10 a.m. Allisen Corpuz, Andrea Lee
8:20 a.m. Emma Spitz, Seo-yun Kwon
8:30 a.m. Amanda Doherty, Agathe Laisne
8:40 a.m. Kaleigh Telfer, Sofia Anokhina
8:50 a.m. Erica Shepherd, Natalie Srinivasan
9:00 a.m. Beatrice Wallin, Olivia Mehaffey
9:10 a.m. Yuka Saso, Marta Perez
9:20 a.m. Maja Stark, Alice Hewson
9:30 a.m. Haylee Harford, Caterina Don
9:40 a.m. Jaravee Boonchant, Haley Moore
9:50 a.m. Zoe Campos, Rose Zhang
10:00 a.m. Kaitlyn Papp, Yuka Yasuda
10:10 a.m. Pimnipa Panthong, Sierra Brooks
10:20 a.m. Jennifer Kupcho, Maria Fassi

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