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. Carl

    Isn't golf itself, like most other sports, still officially gender-segregated? Why all the fuss over a club for bored rich people?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. generalTURDS

    Rice has to play using BLACK BALLZ!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cooper

    Can you apply on line? I'm sure to get a membership, too.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • generalTURDS

      only if u are a fairee or lezbian!

      August 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. person

    Wow. Good for them and their snoody golf club. I bet everyone there is such a great human being.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • generalTURDS

      All the membership of this golf club is a bunch of cardboard dummies and phonies like they used in the movie Blazin Saddles!

      August 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    "I don't have time for one hole, let alone the other seventeen."

    August 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. warmongerssuck

    sure, given opportunities, "conservative women" can exploit and kill people much more effectively and ruthlessly than "progressive men", all on their own.

    "conservative feminists" are right about that.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hingedlwnb

    Smart move. The pile of dishes has to be monstrous by now.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. uuummmmmmmm

    my wife loves to play golf...can she become a member??? she is white...and works for wal-mart...

    August 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. generalTURDS

    In a follow-up to the first of my above comments, most white women who wanted to gain membership to the Augusta National Golf Club were lezbians...not all of them were!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. uuummmmmmmm

    oh..sorry...wrong color.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    So why aren't the komrade libs cheering that this wall has been broken down? Oh, wait a minute. The wall was breached by a black woman ... gasp .... conservative. Now if the first woman was some man-hating carpet muncher the libs would have been trumpeting this to the high heavens.

    New spelling for the word hypocrite, L-I-B-E-R-A-L.

    Scott

    August 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • allenwoll

      New spelling for the word "insane" - CONSERVATIVE ! !

      August 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Good! Now that you screwed up the country for eight years, you can go play your eight round of gulf. Worthless piece of crap!

    August 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    In order for the women to stay, they must average 5 under par. Settled.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. allenwoll

    Achhh ! ! ! . Somebody FINALLY changed the calendars at the Augusta Golf Club.

    Golly, I'll bet the old ones were DUSTY ! ! !

    August 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. James

    Wow what an accomplishment!!!! A rich black friend of George Bush and a rich white friend of Martha Stewart!!! They got a two for one on diversity!! Women and race!!!! Would that be a hole in one or an eagle for Augusta?

    August 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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