Billy Jean King issues Augusta National challenge that only Annika Sorenstam could tackle

Next week is the inaugural Parity Week by Gainbridge, a celebration of pioneers in women’s sports. LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam will be honored alongside tennis great Billie Jean King and Lyn St. James, a former F1 driver. There will be three sporting events held with 180 women competing for $13 million.

Ahead of the events, the legends made an appearance with King putting Augusta National under the microscope.

“My prayer for Augusta is to have a women’s LPGA event,” King said. “I know they have the amateur girls, but I want to see a pro tournament. So I hope that happens. I think you [Annika] will make a big difference. You stand for so much, and people listen to you and appreciate you. No pressure!”

Sorenstam recently became the first female golfer to be admitted as a member of Augusta National. The previous six women members were not affiliated with the LPGA or professional women’s golf.

The 12-time Grand Slam singles champion has always been championed for progressing women’s sports.

That is something that means a lot to Sorenstam as well.

The historic golf course in Augusta, Ga., hosts the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament every year. It’s a start to busting down the barriers women still face at this club and in the sport itself.

Augusta National Women’s Am, Annika Sorenstam, Rose Zhang

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

They do get to play Augusta National, but it’s deceiving. They play 36 holes at Champions Retreat Golf Club, and if they’re lucky enough, the women get a measly 18 holes on the big track.

Hosting an amateur event is a step in the right direction for the hallowed grounds of the Masters.

But the club has yet to host a women’s professional tournament.

With Sorenstam’s membership, King recognizes that the 72-time LPGA winner is likely the only one with enough influence to get some traction.

“Don’t put her on the hot spot yet,” King said. “We’ve got to give her a couple years, man. She’s got to get to know the members first. You’ve got to get to know how it works.”

The tennis legend knows all too well what it’s like to break down barriers in women’s sports. She did it her entire career.

King helped establish the Women’s Sports Foundation to help protect Title IX rights in sports. She also created the Women’s Tennis Association and beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” event in 1973.

The 10-time LPGA major championship winner broke down her own walls. She played on the PGA Tour against the men and has left a legacy many continue to follow.

If anyone could make a golf tournament happen for women in Augusta, it’s Sorenstam.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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