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. What's The Point

    Its a sad day for golf tradition. Its not like women were being harmed by being kept out of Augusta. I'm still trying to figure out what Augusta's angle in all this is. They didn't do it for the money. They didn't do it because they can't get members. You can say they did because of sponsor pressure but that's been debunked prior to this.

    Its just sad that a sport built on tradition such as golf, and a club with such storied tradition as Augusta, would vaporize that for no apparent reason on than so "women could be members".

    August 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Woof

      The point is that there was no reason for the rule in the first place! .

      August 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. john

    Its not even confirmed that Condi is a woman

    August 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. nothing new here

    This has been a long time coming, but an important milestone has been reached.
    Congratulations, ladies.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Token

    Two for one token, rather.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      three-fer by 30 rock standards. Apparently ivy league counts as one, too.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NorCalMojo

    Another win for Condi.

    Is there any wall she can't knock down?

    The woman is incredible.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bman

      Yes, the one to heaven.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      Take off your partisan blinders for a few minutes and you may recognize one of the greatest leaders of our time.

      No qualification is necessary.

      Not the greatest woman, not the greatest black person, not the greatest black woman, but the greatest of any and all leaders of our time.

      Get on the right side of history.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bman

    Condie Rice is a woman?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jon

    What's next? Tampon machines and daycare center? Sheesh. Too bad private businesses like this have caved to political correctness. I will remember this the next time I drive by a "women's only" gym. Yes, they are all over the country now. Not only that, but there are now "fat people" gym's where in shape people can't go....so they won't intimidate the fatties.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. warmongerssuck

    this ugly Mammi serves her massas well alright, at the expense of little people.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. hapa1688

    quote from Mitt R. – "Congrats to my friend @CondoleezzaRice for joining Augusta National & congrats to Augusta National for admitting its first female members"

    Why is he congratulating Ms. Rice? What did she do to deserve a congratulations? It's not as if she worked so hard to try and be accepted? C'mon, it's almost as if he's comparing Ms. Rice with passing some sort of olympic trials and now she's made the team or something. Oh wait, she did, she worked really hard by being black and women. what was I thinking? that in of itself is hard work and thus she should be congratulated for being accepted – duh!

    What a dolt MR is.
    It should be an honour to the members of Augusta that someone of Ms. Rice's stature even accepted a membership to such a club. It's not as if she needs them for connections or $$$, it's the other way around.
    What a joke this is.
    (and more so what a joke Ms. Rice is for even accepting)

    August 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      The difference between jealousy and envy is that jealousy will never get you to ambition which will lead to your dreams.

      And, you're just jealous.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. generalTURDS

    Look how they let in a black when white women have been trying to get memberships into this club fer years! Granted those women were Lezbians, but being BLACK sure wields power in this country today!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lynn

    There a a lot of old dead white guys rolling over in their graves!!!! 🙂

    August 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Token

    Now women have their own token. Congrats, ladies. See you at the next Army draft.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Laurie

    How decent of them after being well-harrased into it. Now I would like to see an all-woman course. That would work for me. I would like that.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. m

    And this is newsworthy? People are still dying in the war DicknBushnConnienWolfowitzandRummy started and media reports on this crap.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. generalTURDS

    Blazing Saddles is unquestionably the best movie ever made in the US!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24