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. woodie

    Horning in where you aren't wanted is super tacky. Nice going Rice. Nothing is sacred anymore.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    She does look somewhat mannish noadays....hit the wall

    August 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jamest297

    They have already given a free concert on the 18th!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. J. Richter

    These women should have declined the invite to show the embarrassment. Two token women to make up for decades of slighting women. Did women just accomplish enough right this day to deserve membership or did the club admit excluding them while they were "qualified" was wrong. If it is the latter, then at least some mea culpa or comment would be in order. What did Rice just recently accomplish that got her beyond the threshold?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Someone has to be first, right? Given your logic, Augusta National Golf Club would never have a woman member.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jamest297

    I have just now proposed marriage to Condolezza Rice. I'll even take her last name if she insists.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Just_One

    HAHAHA! Now women will find out all we talk about on the weekends in football, cars and chicks.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marta Paglianni

    This woman has lots of BLOOD on her hands. How about a more HONORABLE person instead of a War Criminal who OK the mass killings of over 200,000 innocent Iraqi babies, women, and men and over 15K of our wonderful soldiers. No to mention saying OK to torture. And this is the best we got? SHAME ON THE AUGUSTA GA. This woman belongs at the Hague along with Bush and Cheney and the rest. OR you must be from a Muslim nation or a 3rd world nation to be a war criminal?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      How do you feel about Darla Moore?

      August 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marta Paglianni

      James Darla Moore is a fine example of a hard working woman with wonderful traits and character. I am proud of her. She also didnt engage in a false war, sent soldiers to their death or approved the killing of mass amount of innocent Iraqi women, baby and men.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dot8

    I have a feeling that within a few years men will become slaves to women.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cashmeremafia

    I wonder how many misogynists will cancel their membership??

    August 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Zero misogynists will cancel, but a couple democrats might. Are you listening Bill Gates?

      August 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJL

      Democrats aren't against women's rights, but if you watch Faux news, you wouldn't know that.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. johndanger

    That's too bad. I can't think why a woman would want to join a traditionaly all mens' club. I certainly wouldn't want to join an all female orginanization. Although the Daughters of the American Revolution has always appealed to me. Maybe...... Nah.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. phneutral

    A wise decision by Augusta, but there are many women that wont be happy until they can grow a ..., well never mind.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • irock

      I wish some of these loud mouth women would grow some just so they can see how uncomfortable they can get. Maybe they would be happy with who they are then.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jpedetoon

    Is there anything left for men only? Seems like this gender cannot have anything of its own anymore.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • B IS FOR BONG

      jpedetoon

      Is there anything left for men only? Seems like this gender cannot have anything of its own anymore
      --------------------------------------------

      Theres allways the boys scouts.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJL

      Then go live in a cave, because that's where you belong, neanderthal.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. frankiesweep

    Admit a fat and loud black woman w/ no manners, then I'll buy this... Condi is as white as me.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJL

      "White as Rice?" ūüėČ

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

    I would feel much better if Condi was running with Romney.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • irock

      You can say that about anyone afiliated with the presidency even your hero Obama.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. s~

    yeah! both are conservative women.....

    Come on liberals aren't you going to protest now for liberal women to allow in .....lol.....

    August 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
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