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. ewalker1966

    Who cares! Don't we have things more important to worry about?! We could have solved all of the world's problems by now if everyone focused as much on that as they do stupid stuff like this!

    August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joemama

    Now they need a women's locker room, Ladies tees and have to add salads to the clubhouse menu and install Tampax dispensers. Where does it end? haha

    August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Women have been playng golf there for a long time – just not as members.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jake

    Of course, the poliitically connected Republicans get the nod. Why didn't they just pick a Jane Doe. Same story, the elite, the powerful, the rich, and the connected of the Republican party always want to be at the front of the line.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      You say that like it's a bad thing.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    I think it's ashame Augusta caved in to pressure. Not everything has to include everyone. Boys have their clubs, girls have theirs.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Seve

    Would they allow Obama to be a caddy ther since that's about the only job the last 3.5 years his resume would qualify him for? Unless a businees somewhere needs someone to make excuses and apologize for them...

    August 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Addy Tracker

      Lame. Extremely lame.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Ur funny. As in short bus funny. We should go back to Bjush for guys like you – he bankrupt every company, team and country he ran. But it's all Obama's fault....yup just his.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. E. White

    I. Did. Not. Know. That. Condolezza.Rice. Played. Golf.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tara

    Oh jeez, who cares???

    August 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. scranton

    This is a non issue. Who gives a crap whether a mens onlyclub allowed women are not? If women want women only clubs no one cares.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • woodie

      That's right. I guess men bashing is still fashionable.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • bombastus

      Correct. Who really cares? A Southern boy's club. Black's were not admitted until 1990 and until 1983 only black guys could be caddies. This operation is a disgusting hang over from Jim Crow days. Why would an intelligent accomplished woman want to belong to such a thing? In fact, any woman who does join takes a big step down the food chain.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. scranton

    ...........and you are not intelligent. The world moves on minimum wager.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MM

    Now I got to find me an all white male club to join.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Broadcasting

      Are you sure you would want to join a club that would have you as a member? 😉

      August 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • johndanger

      @Broadcasting, WC Fields, right?

      August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cj

    wow.. how downright progressive of them. And a black woman no less. I bet there are a few uppity necks getting red over this one.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      "A black woman no less", I don't understand is it a bad thing being black? You are Americans are very weird. Here in Canada we're way past these kind of groupings.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • johndanger

      @Brian, sure buddy, what ever you say.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Grey

    This is only because they finally realized that women like these two have more ba11s than most of the men already in their little gentlemens club, or our house of Congress for that matter.I personally believe Condoleeza Rice is far superior in intellect than anyone in Washington now, or in the past 30 years.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Marta Paglianni

    She is a WAR CRIMINAL!! SO they admitted a war criminal to play golf. NOTHING TO BE PROUD ABOUT THIS AT ALL. Too bad that it wasn't a more honorable woman. Bush and Cheney and their cabinet members invaded Iraq for not reason at all and in the process over 200,000 innocent Iraqi women, babies and men were killed and over 15K of our brave soldiers.
    Yet we are celebrating this? If she was from a 3rd world Nation she would be at the Hague along with Bush, Cheney, wolfie, Rommie, Gonzales and the rest.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJL

      If only, Marta. If only...

      August 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DDW 1946

      Couldn't have said it any better. With that said who cares what happens at Augusta National?

      August 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Debbie

    Can't even say better late than never. Augusta is an embarressment.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anne

    Wow, big of them. But with no female restrooms, she'll be in big trouble and thus can't stay around and smoke cigars and tell dirty jokes with the men in the bar.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Wanna bet

      August 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Addy Tracker

      Women have been playing for years there. Just not as members. Those things are already in place. Get with the program!

      August 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Broadcasting

      It's ok, there are plenty of trees at Augusta.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
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