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. Nad

    Why women always hijack men's name and their clubs? Men's club is for men and women's club is for women.
    And why Condoleezza Rice? She is a dirty as G.W. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney(pig).

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

    The global elites of the world are a plague against humanity. They will ALL be judged for their crimes. They will ALL pay the ultimate price for the evil that they have done. Their time on the earth is short. Their master is a liar. The lord of lies.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. noteaparty4me

    I too celebrate Augusta National's admitting it's first femle members. It was a long time coming and it only saddens me to know that financialand a firestomr of outside pressure caused it to happen. I hope we get to a day that discrimination is stopped because people realize they need to "DO THE RIGHT THING." I was surprised they did not go back and offer a membership to the recent female CEO sponsor (I think she IBM's CEO, Virgina Rometty). President Obama was sooooo right on how people cling to their guns and religion. But the President's remarks should have gone farther in that people cling tightest to racism and prejudices they are taught in their homes and in society. This is a good day for Augusta but also an embarrassing one that it took this long for this to happen.

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

      Do you believe men should be allowed in all women establishments?

      August 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John T

    Yes women's only clubs are totally fine but men's only clubs are wrong and discriminatory. And women wonder why so many guys strongly dislike them?

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

    I want to joint the Girl Scouts can't understand why they won't let me in.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Richie

    they didn't want no dems

    August 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Robrob

    Yay!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EastCoast Mike

    Glad to see they accepted a woman on their own terms and didn't cave to pressure from that Burke woman.

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

    Men not allowed any special privileges anymore. Women have NOW, Concerned Women for America, LeLeche League, WNBA, Softball, etc., etc., etc. You don't see men clamoring like banshees to get in these organizations. 99% of white males can't even afford Augusta, so WHAT's THE FRIGGING POINT???!!!

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

      "99% of white males can't attend" – well we now know your preferred demographic....bloody idiot.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Phoenixman

    Congrats to them both, and congrats to Augusta officials. Rather than call it an "about face" as the article suggests, they waited for the hoopla and pressure to die down and picked their own time to make the selections.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. frankiesweep

    They need to let in a loud black, like Omarosa... Someone who will get all loud and obnoxious...

    Condi is a safe choice... Black, polite, quiet, civilized and possible lesbian...

    August 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ummyaa

    OMG THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Woody

    So when can men get into Vassar College and play field hockey?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      Vassar went co-ed in '69

      August 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Vassar has been coed for about fifty years. And I'm guessing they'll let us play field hockey about the time women get to start playing tackle football :p

      August 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. frankiesweep

    Men should go out and join the Junior League...

    August 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Great

    oh ps when do we get to go into the women's locker rooms after games?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
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