It's time for the first women's Major of the season but with a change of location and loss of tradition, will this impact how The Chevron Championship is received? Editor Emma Ballard gives her thoughts.
Tradition is a word we like to use a lot in golf. Tradition is the backbone of our sport, something that many of us are extremely proud of whilst we also acknowledge that it's ‘tradition’ that often holds the sport back.
Taking the word tradition in a positive light, we experienced ‘a tradition unlike any other’ just over a week ago. The Masters is a perfect example of what tradition in golf looks like. Since 1934, Augusta National has built a juggernaut of a sporting event which, maybe apart from the Ryder Cup, helps to get golf in front of the biggest audience each year.
Tradition, exclusivity and a large sprinkling of intrigue has helped to make the Masters a bucket list event to attend, one that all golfers like to talk about and can now rightly be called the first Major of the season.
I really don’t like to compare men’s golf with women’s golf, not unless it’s during an event when the field is mixed, however, it’s unavoidable with the points that I am about to make.
The Chevron Championship
This week is the first women’s Major of the season, The Chevron Championship. Maybe not a name that everyone is familiar with yet, maybe you remember the ANA Inspiration or the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Nabisco Championship, Nabisco Dinah Shore? Whatever you think of, these are the names associated with the first Major, an event that has run since 1972 and elevated to Major status in 1983.
Like me (don’t forget my 40 by 40 challenge!) this Major is 40 years old. A granddaughter in comparison to its 88-year-old grandfather the Masters but 40 years is still plenty of time to build tradition and the status of the event. When the Masters reached 40, Gary Player was winning his second green jacket, with Jack Nicklaus winning his fifth the following year.
Two names that are still synonymous with the game 48 years later.
Until this year The (now) Chevron Championship has always had to compete for the limelight from the Masters. The Major was always held the week or two weeks before Augusta. For forty years women professionals have had to take a back seat whilst media and most fans develop a frenzied excitement for Masters week. There’s nothing wrong with that but there has never really been any space for women to get any traction for their own Major championship.
Let’s not even talk about the outrageous decision to pit the top women amateurs against the professionals when the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was launched in 2019 and run the same week as the first women’s Major.
Tradition ran throughout the women's first Major
As tradition in golf goes and as I’ve already mentioned the integral part it plays at the Masters, you could argue that The Chevron Championship had it all, even though it isn’t the oldest women’s Major.
Starting with the venue, Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California where it spent the last 39 years. Much of the appeal of the Masters is how it returns to the same venue every year.
A figurehead for the event, it’s not the Augusta National Chairman but Dinah Shore, the American singer and actress was a driving force in women’s golf and behind the inception of the original event. Her presence was always there, even after her death in 1994 and was immortalised in a bronze statue in 2000.
A green jacket is replaced with a white bathrobe due to the leap into Poppie’s Pond which started in 1988 by Amy Alcott but didn’t become a tradition until 1994.
Taking a tip from Augusta, they host a Champions dinner every year and this combined with the leap makes for a unique but also special moment for the winner of this Major. Something that Brittany Lincicome, 2009 and 2015 Chevron Champion, spoke about in 2019:
“Obviously being a part of the past champion's dinner last night with the history of this event and all the wonderful women, it's so cool to get together and just hear stories of past wins they've had and how many times the past champions have won, that kind of stuff. The little things. Jumping into Poppie’s Pond is a pretty cool one as well.
“I think the history of this event and how much this event means to every single player on tour. Just such a cool thing for ANA to keep it going and how much it means to all players. This is awesome.”
A change of venue
Do I need to go on? Tradition runs deep at The Chevron Championship but this year the Major has a new venue.
As I look through my social media timeline, it’s hard to see the buzz that a Major championship should get. Have we gone from Masters mania to Major fatigue already? I doubt it, it’s not fatigue. Would we be seeing more coverage due to its new date but still played in California, maybe.
Initially, my first thought was that the venue move to The Club at Carlton Woods in Texas and the loss of so many of these traditions associated with this first Major was a big blow to the event. However, until this point tradition alone has not been enough to drive sport media and golf fan interest in this women’s Major.
What this shows me is that women’s professional golf cannot rely on tradition and legacy to build its profile. It has a much tougher PR job to do which focuses on living in the moment and using its current stars to increase its profile.
So where women’s golf fans, like me, feel a loss this week, it’s actually a fantastic opportunity for The Chevron Championship.
A new and invigorated sponsor and change of location may be just what this first women’s Major needs to help it come out of Augusta’s shadows and challenge our engrained perception that traditions need to be kept or need to be an integral part of golf for the women’s professional game to thrive.
Read Charlotte's preview of The Chevron Championship here.