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. tateman

    I'm not surprised that Augusta National would choose these women. They both stand for all the right wing conservative ideologies that the other members stand for. They are what you call "token members". This is an elite club in which women are for the most part treated as second class citizens. This whole thing is a public relations ploy which really doesn't change anything in this bastion of back room deals and good ole boy networks.

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

    How progressive to allow women.... in 2012......

    August 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Not only women, but a knee gorw woman. Chew on that!

      August 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    Not just a women, but a woman war criminal, of that there is no doubt, her Cheney, Bush, and the entire "Vulcan" crew.

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

    Congradulations Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.

    I hope August keep their membership VERY exclusive.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Onas

    What an ugly woman, she wouldn't even look good as sh3male. she looks like d0g, I can't believe such people get headlines at all.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Norm

    Well that's nice.
    The American Republican Taliban is finally letting a woman and a person of color in their little club without having to be a paid servant.
    How big of them.

    Obama 2012...

    August 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      The preponderance of membership wealth is held by Democrat members.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 2 cents

    We still have NO MA'AM, the "National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood

    August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hingedlwnb

    Wonder what knid of sandwiches they make?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. s~

    Liberals will always have something else to b1tch about......

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

    To all of you loving little liberals preaching "tolerance" out there, guess what? Augusta National is a PRIVATE organization and as such, can admit whomever they want to admit!! And as a woman, I support their right to do so.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DDW 1946

    You Sir are a sick puppy. Crawl back in the hole you came from.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Semsi12

    So, does that mean my sons can get unto Wesleyan College ?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. s~

    yeah! both are conservative women.....

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

    August 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 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.

    Now Darla Moore is a fine example of a hard working women who made it by doing so and have not blood on her hands. How about a teacher or someone who has done great things for humanity?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. renitaa

    About Time!

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