Editor’s word: A lot has modified at Augusta Nationwide within the decade since then-chairman Hootie Johnson, responding to elevated stress to confess feminine members, famously mentioned, “There could properly come a day when girls are invited to affix our membership, however that timetable will likely be ours and never on the level of a bayonet.” Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore grew to become the primary girls members in 2012 and extra have joined since, however the membership’s boldest acknowledgment of the necessity to evolve was the formation of the Augusta Nationwide Ladies’s Novice, an annual occasion debuting this April that can conclude on the Saturday earlier than the Masters. Most golf followers have by no means seen a girl swing a membership on Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie’s masterpiece — that’s about to alter.
The story of this breakthrough occasion isn’t solely about Augusta Nationwide unlocking its gates, it’s additionally concerning the proficient girls marching by means of them. On this sequence, we’ll introduce you to 5 of them.
Subsequent on the tee: Allyson Geer-Park
(Earlier: Alexa Pano’s star retains rising — and she or he’s nonetheless solely 14)
Allyson Geer-Park was solely 12 when she had a option to make.
She discovered success in native Michigan occasions, however when she obtained into her first AJGA match at Chateau Elan in Georgia she missed the reduce. Not sure if she may hack it with the uber-talented nationwide golf competitors, Ally, 12 happening 20, talked to her dad and mom about her future.
“I both work actually onerous and attempt to come again subsequent yr and play in AJGA occasions, or I’m going again to enjoying native occasions and play for enjoyable,” she remembers telling them. “So I labored my butt off.”
One yr after lacking the reduce at Chateau Elan, Geer-Park returned to the identical occasion. This time she received.
“You possibly can’t educate work ethic; you both have it otherwise you don’t,” says Brad Geer, Ally’s father. “Ally has it.”
Brad and Andrea Geer have three ladies, Jessalyn, Allyson and Kassidy, all about three years aside. On the lookout for a family-friendly exercise when the ladies have been younger, Brad, a golf nut, determined to take household outings to a close-by course. Kassidy, the youngest, was strapped within the automotive seat in the course of the cart. They’d spend most of their time feeding the geese and operating again to choose up Ally’s forgotten wedges, however the ladies have been hooked. Brad reduce down an previous set of golf golf equipment and put new grips on them for all of his children — as a “Golfsmith addict,” he was having a ball.
Golf has remained an enormous a part of their household, particularly for Ally. Mature past her years, ever since she dedicated to the sport after that missed reduce at 12, her life has remodeled.
She gave up dancing and ironed out a extra productive golf schedule, and home-schooling along with her mom gave her flexibility. Most days she’d be up early with homework earlier than arriving at Oak Pointe Nation Membership in Brighton, Mich., round 10 a.m. She’d observe till lunch time. Relying on how previous Ally was, generally her mother was there for lunch, generally she’d drive up the street and drop it off and, generally, she’d shock her daughter with books and homework to overview. Ally would return to the course and observe till about four p.m. — across the time the after-work crowd busied up her workplace. When she obtained residence, college was in session. All the Geer ladies have been home-schooled once they have been youthful and had the choice to decide on the place to go subsequent. Ally was the one one who determined to remain home-schooled, which allowed her extra time to journey and play golf. Schoolwork traveled as properly, as she typically hit the books along with her mother or dad whereas at resorts between match rounds.
Victories piled up, and she or he dedicated to Michigan State after her eighth-grade yr. She received the 2015 and 2016 Michigan State Novice Championships — turning into the youngest participant within the final 23 years to repeat — and enrolled at MSU early, the place she was named Massive Ten Freshman of the Yr in simply half a season. As a sophomore she recorded the second-lowest single-season scoring common at school historical past (71.61).
Now a junior on the Spartans girls’s golf crew, Geer-Park talked along with her coach about the potential of enjoying within the ANWA when it was introduced final yr, however they each knew she wanted to enhance her rating. She then went out and received the primary occasion of the autumn. (Her second victory of the season got here on Tuesday on the Briar’s Creek Invitational when she shot a 13-under 203 — MSU’s lowest 54-hole match rating in program historical past.)
She was in one in every of her communications lessons in January when her telephone erupted.
“My mother was simply blowing up my telephone saying, ‘I obtained a inexperienced envelope and [the invite] is right here,” Geer-Park, 20, says. “I mentioned, OK, don’t open it. So I went residence the following day and opened it up and it was simply loopy seeing the golf seal and the whole lot. I cried a bit bit the following day when all of it form of sunk in, simply speaking with my coach. I used to be simply so excited after I initially noticed it.”
“It’s simply this inexperienced, bifold, lovely package deal with the Augusta Nationwide emblem embedded into it, and that was only a nice second as a mother or father,” Brad says. “We have been simply extraordinarily completely happy for her.”
We make an awesome crew, on and off the golf course.
Whereas some ANWA opponents will elect to make use of membership caddies on their bag in the event that they make it to the ultimate spherical at Augusta, Ally will enlist her husband. She wed former Japanese Michigan golfer Nick Park on Aug. four, 2018, 12 days earlier than she turned 20 and a day earlier than catching a flight to the U.S. Ladies’s Novice. Nick has caddied for Ally in her LPGA and Symetra tour sponsor’s invitations.
“He’s probably the most supportive particular person with what I do and understands my schedule, and he traveled clearly with faculty and I journey,” Ally says. “It’s superior. We make an awesome crew, on and off the golf course.”
He’s additionally pumped to get to Augusta.
“I don’t know who’s going to have an even bigger smile on their face, her or her husband,” Brad says.
As for Ally? She’s excited to be among the many group who will make historical past within the inaugural occasion.
“I believe the nerves are going to be there,” Ally says. “After I’m standing on the primary tee, I’ll know the place I’m and I’ll know what this match means. However on the finish of the day, it truly is simply one other drive.”