The ANA Inspiration didn’t get shut out after all.
With so much uncertainty over how overlapping dates with the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur would affect the ANA’s amateur field, the ANA showed Monday that it can do more than coexist.
Its amateur tradition just might continue to thrive.
“It turned out to be a really great field for us,” ANA Inspiration tournament director Chris Garrett said.
On Monday, the ANA Inspiration announced the four amateurs who have accepted invitations to play in the women’s first major (April 4-7) at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The list includes two of the top three players in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking, three of the top six and four of the top 11.
Sweden’s Frida Kinhult, a freshman at Florida State, leads the amateur invites. She’s No. 2 in the world amateur rankings.
She’ll be joined by Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit, a sophomore at UCLA who is No. 3 in the world; Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, a junior at Stanford who is No. 6; and Memphis’ Rachel Heck, a 17-year-old who is No. 11.
Valenzuela made the cut and finished 59th in last year’s ANA.
The ANA did reduce the number of at-large amateurs it invited this year, down from six last year. The winner of the ANA Junior Inspiration will get the fifth amateur invite. Garrett said if that junior has already committed to playing the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the ANA invite will go to the second-place finisher. If there’s a tie for second, a playoff will determine who gets the invite. If required, the ANA will go down the list of top ANA finishers to fill its junior berth.
With the date conflict with Augusta National, Garrett said the ANA will seriously consider setting up an amateur qualification system, which would allow three or four of its amateur invites to know they’ve qualified to play in the ANA Inspiration before the end of the year, three months before the ANA Inspiration begins.
“The challenge this year was that the Augusta invites had gone out, and ours went out right on top of them,” Garrett said. “So, I think it was a tough decision for players to make. It might be different in the future if a player knows she has already qualified for our event [when the Augusta invites go out].”
Garrett said it will take more than one year to get a feel for how the events coexist.
“We want to take a wait-and-see approach, to see if the novelty of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur will wear off once players have played in it,” Garrett said.
Garrett believes the ANA Inspiration can continue to be played the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and may not require a move on the calendar.