AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A women's amateur tournament will see the final round played at Augusta National next year on the Saturday prior to the Masters.
Fred Ridley, who took over this year as chairman of Augusta National for Billy Payne, announced the new event, which will be called the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship.
The new 54-hole stroke-play tournament will be played annually the week prior to the Masters, with the Saturday final round conducted at the home of the year's first men's major championship.
"This championship will become an exciting edition to the Masters week, and it furthers our effort to promote the sport and inspire young women to take up the game,'' Ridley said at the annual chairman's news conference. "And now, just imagine the 40 girls who come here each year for the Drive, Chip & Putt national finals will be able to dream about returning here one day to compete on a much grander stage for another impressive title: champion of the Augusta National Women's Amateur.''
In recent years, the club has undertaken several grow-the-game initiatives, including amateur events in Asia and South America, as well as the Drive, Chip & Putt for kids ages 7 to 15 that takes place on the Sunday prior to tournament week.
The women's amateur event will invite 72 players, who will play 36 holes at nearby Champions Retreat Golf Club. The field will be cut to the low 30 scores, and those players will advance to the final round at Augusta National.
The event is expected to be televised and daily tickets will be made available through a random selection process to be announced later.
Several qualification criteria have already been put in place, and the winner will receive a five-year exemption to return to the tournament, as well as exemptions into the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open.
The announcement comes 15 years after activist Martha Burk protested the tournament because of its membership policies, which at the time included no women. The tournament took the extraordinary step of foregoing commercial sponsorship after Burk called for a boycott of the tournament's sponsors.
In 2012, the club admitted its first female members, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was on hand for Wednesday's announcement.
"My first thought was that when these young women amateurs get this opportunity, I know a lot of young amateurs across the country ... I can just see their faces,'' Rice said. "They will be so excited. ... I think it's a superb opportunity. And a great idea.
"When I think of Bobby Jones, the great amateur ... the great amateurs who have played here. To add women to that great amateur tradition is just a great idea.''