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. Nina

    and a double...a visible minority female....about time!...now matches the ratio of women to men in the corporate boardroom....2 women to how many hundred men?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. US guy

    Rice is so ugly – she will scary everyone from the field

    August 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Byteme

    I hear they're pulling out all the stops when they build the new ladies room. Today, it's a stack of Dixie cups on a card table with an arrow pointing to the nearest shrub.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. R. Harris

    Welcome to 21st century Augusta

    August 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Old Guy

    Great...... but do either one of these women actually play golf?
    You would think news writers good enough for CNN would think
    to mention this. And their handcaps would be nice too.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. markiejoe

    when they admit a dozen regular women - i.e., non-celebrities - let me know.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I don't think Darla Moore is a celebrity.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mary

    I don't get it. Why do so many people get upset because an establishment is men-only or women-only? Men started Augusta and host the Masters, which is the ultimate in the game of golf. They've obviously done a good job. What is the big deal if it's exclusive to males?
    And what is the big deal if other organizations, groups or clubs are female only?
    Get a grip people. Men are men. Women are women. We are NOT all the same, no better, no worse, but definitely different. I like girls' night out, and NO you guys aren't invited. Sue me.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Addy Tracker

      Your last two words are the very reason that people are getting into private clubs, lol.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Membership at Augusta has nothing to do with gender (or golf) ....has everything to do with power and influence and the recognition of those attributes!

      August 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Delores Nickel

    Augusta, the World welcomes you to the 21st Century!! Having lived in Georgia 11 years, I remember old Billys' steadfast refusal to allow women to join. Shameful; now these women need to tell him to stick it where the sun don't shine-as Grandma used to say.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nobikiniatoll

    Wow! Welcome to the 20th and 21st Centuries... all in the same day!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. gone

    more tradition down the tube.................

    August 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Harlon Katz

    @Beverly – they probably need to follow the traditions of the club. They are members, but they are NEW members. There may be a seniority system where people who have held specific tee times get to keep them. Are you proposing they get special treatment?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kdawgg

    Condi should have her teeth fixed – her grill is jacked up

    August 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. the_dude

    Augusta just got.....lame. Seriously ladies way to ruin tradition. So PC lame.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • nothing new here

      A PRIVATE organization, of it's own free will, chooses to allow women members – of it's own free will – and you are complaining?

      August 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Harlon Katz

    You do realize that captains of industry defines most of the members of Augusta, don't you? Did you want them to lower the standards when they accepted women? Are you jealous that there is a club that does not want you as a member?

    August 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wondering999

    Welcome to 1970, Augusta National Golf Club!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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