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. fernace

    Well, this is a step in the right direction, but makes little difference to the average woman! I'd be more apt to rejoice if male politicians announced they were gonna stop intruding themselves in womens healthissues & choices we make! That would be a good day!!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. D

    So does this mean I can now join Curves?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • food

      no, only women are allowed to have closed clubs.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • LH

      no kidding... that aside, congrats to the new members, however, I find nothing wrong with a private club, taking no public money, from maintaining whatever membership they want. Be realistic, opening this club's membership up doesn't keep the power brokers, or anyone for that matter, from meeting up in 'secret' if they so desire.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hmm

    Darla Moore – okay.

    Rice?????

    August 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Liberatus

    The irony of course, it that it is the democrats who have fought for women's rights, and the first two in are republicans.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. danita

    I am a woman – I don't think woman should be able to be apart of everything a man does. Men shuold have their own space and not always have a woman wanting to be apart of if. There's plenty of public golf places so why can't men have a private club to get away from women. Same thing should apply for women. Women stop always thinking men should have you around in every part of their lives.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tim

    Here, here mike

    August 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. FrenchyinON

    Wow! Hard to know which is the bigger story here, that the Augusta National Golf Club has finally made it into the twentieth century or that Condoleeza Rice finally did something progressive. Either way, it's good news. Now that wasn't so hard, boys, was it?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Liberatus

    Uh–if you're comment was serious.....the YMCA has been open to both genders for years and years.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rob

    So ok, wage discrimination is still in effect worldwide.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pete

    They had no choice,otherwise they would have hollered discrimination.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Uh, where have you been the last several years?

      August 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. iceload9

    I think women would be cheering more if jobs were opening up, runaway healthcare costs contained. Everyone who's thrilled with this, you'll equally excited to hear you can caddy or serve drinks.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ang Ree

    Why does EVERYTHING have to be inclusionary? Next, there will be women trying to get into men's restrooms on the basis of having a men's only restroom is discriminatory. I am all for diversity, but I think that if a country club or other venue chooses to be exclusive, it should be allowed to be. There are plenty of venues that are exclusive to the wealthiest people. That's exclusion based on socio-economic status (classism). Should we protest, or should we instead find other venues to socialize? There are really more important things to focus on.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jazzman

    Wondering if Wellesley College and Vassar will allow men in now? After all, it is the 21st century!!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name Goes Here

      Vassar is co-ed.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suennui

      Well, Vassar admits men. The ration is 60% female, 40% male.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • RiadaKram

      Point to jazzman.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jazzman

      You're right. Sorry!! I meant Smith.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Liberatus

    I'm sure you don't realize it, but you certainly made the perfect analogy.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rob

    Are we to be happy that an exclusive club for the RICH have expanded their enrollment policy.
    I'm thrilled... now it's back to slaving away...

    August 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
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