August 20th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Augusta National Golf Club admits first female members

Augusta National Golf Club has admitted its first female members, the private club announced Monday.

The decision to admit former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore of Lake City, South Carolina, ends a longstanding policy excluding women as members of the exclusive Georgia club, which hosts the Masters.

Augusta's membership, which includes titans of industry and finance, has been male-only since its opening in 1932. The policy, which had become a lightning rod issue, had been upheld as recent as  April when Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the issue was a private matter.

Monday's announcement comes as a stark about-face in the club's policy.

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said in a statement. "We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different."

Rice served under President George W. Bush as the first female national security adviser and the first African-American woman to hold the post of secretary of state. She also served on President George H.W. Bush's National Security Council staff and was a special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986.

"I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf," Rice said in a statement. "I also have an immense respect for the Masters tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world."

Moore is the vice president of Rainwater Inc., the investment firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Fortune magazine once named her among the top 50 women in business, and the University of South Carolina's business school is named in her honor.

"I am honored to have accepted an invitation to join Augusta National Golf Club. Augusta National has always captured my imagination, and is one of the most magically beautiful places anywhere in the world, as everyone gets to see during the Masters each April," Moore said in a statement. "I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life. Above all, Augusta National and the Masters  Tournament have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me. I am extremely grateful for this privilege."

Payne noted the significance of admitting the first women to the club.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the Club opens this fall," he said. "This is a significant and positive time in our Club’s history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family."

Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, tweeted his congratulations to Rice.

[tweet https://twitter.com/MittRomney/status/237583724143841280%5D

Reaction from the public has been swift online following the announcement, with some people complimenting the club and others remarking about how long it had taken them to reach this milestone.

[tweet https://twitter.com/sommanita/status/237583980889784320%5D

One person took an irreverent look at the news, comparing it with the Olympics, which saw two women, modestly dressed and veiled, walked proudly alongside the flag of their nation, Saudi Arabia, into London's Olympic stadium at the Games' spectacular opening ceremony.

[tweet https://twitter.com/IbnLarry/status/237574243204870145%5D

The longstanding issue was again in the spotlight this past April because of IBM's sponsorship of the Masters. The tournament guarantees club membership for its officers, but IBM's top executive was a woman. At the time, Payne defended the policy as a private matter.

"Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have historically been subject to the private deliberation of members," Payne said at the time. "That statement remains accurate; it remains my statement."

Bubba Watson, the 33-year-old southpaw who defeated Louis Oosthuizen to capture the famed green jacket at this year's Masters, teed off on the topic during an interview with Piers Morgan earlier this year.

"This day and age, I think that, I don't see any reason why (admitting women) could hurt," Watson said.

Most Augusta patrons seem untroubled by male-only membership policy 

Women's rights activist Martha Burk tried to change the exclusionary policy nine years ago when she showed up at the Augusta entrance to lead a series of protests against men-only membership. Her efforts were in vain.

When Burk tried to change things in 2002, Augusta's then-chairman, Hootie Johnson, resisted, saying that gender integration would not come "at the point of a bayonet."

In 2006, Burk was among a group of Exxon shareholders who accused the company of violating its discrimination policies by supporting the tournament.

The announcement on Monday sent social media into a frenzy, with Augusta National dominating the conversation. Here's a look at some of the reaction:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheAnnaRawson/status/237591833138577408%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/JasonSobelGC/status/237569822311981057%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/JBoltey1/status/237583760286158848%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/GMillerTSN/status/237580245778194433%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/ESPNMcGee/status/237587434274189312%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/LukeChristy/status/237591316882677760%5D

More on Augusta:

Augusta National a powerful holdout among men-only clubs 

Golf.com: Augusta National needs women for good of the game

Romney: Women should be allowed to join Augusta 

White House: Augusta National should admit women 

Let women into Augusta golf club 

Former Augusta member: Club 'pigheaded' 

soundoff (502 Responses)
  1. Billy

    At last, they have someone to make sandwiches for the male members.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dentist

    Hooray for Augusta National!!! Those two women will be outstanding members!!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. equality man

    Now time to get rid of lady only fitness centers I guess.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • ILOVEDRUNKS

      That's just it though, only women and their "we must be completely equal, but men must still pick up the tab" movement care about getting into a men's club. You would be hard pressed to find a man that would give a $h1t about joining curves. Same old double standard that women have been setting since feminism really got going.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      @ILOVEDRUNKS – You are exactly right. Women have been wanting more and more handed to them on a silver platter in the name of discrimination. Yet what they propose does nothing but discriminate against men.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SusanBarwick

    Two fine women to be the first!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bigboard

    Wow! I look for Belizean Grove to accept men just any day now!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. VailRider420

    Hey Condoleeza,

    Nice teeth.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. smokinbluebear

    she belongs in jail along with w, little dick cheney and rummy.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. VailRider420

    +1

    August 20, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tanisha Scottham

    Onward and Upward! Hip, hip, hooray!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dennis

    I wonder when they constructed the women's locker room.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Enthalpy

      Already had them. Women have been allowed to play as guests for a long time just not as a member.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. Yes...Who...Are...You?

    How is this breaking news? Seriously?

    August 20, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. asifyoucould

    ouke

    August 20, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. smokinbluebear

    welcome to the 20th century...

    August 20, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • dhondi

      It's a shame organizations like curves are still allows to practice this sort of hate.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JB

    While I applaud Augusta for finally entering the 21st century, the end result is still that 2 super-rich and powerful people who already lead privileged lives now have another perk the rest of us will never have.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Dentist

      That's what happens when you climb to the top. You should try to do the same and quit being negative! Who knows? Maybe something nice will happen to you!

      August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      dentist how dare you! Hahaha. That kind of mentality no longer exists in the USA. We just want the money from your successes

      August 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. SPENT

    Typical male, weak and cannot hold on to what values they once had. Pressure from a liberal society..How weak!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus Christ Superstar

      Yes, how weak equality is.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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