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. Schmoogalicious

    Yawn. Augusta is about 60 years behind the rest of the world. Might have been interesting a few decades ago.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. DJ

    Some people will say "they're just doing this due to pressure or to appease society", but the most important thing is that they are doing it and it's a big step. Congrats to women and Augusta National!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. MIchael

    SO WHAT! We are supposed to rejoice because these misogynistic idiots finally decided to join the 21st century. GIVE ME A BREAK!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • canadianscot

      So how successful in life are you? CEO, Ex Sec of State, or just collecting bottles out of dumpsters.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Al

    Disgraceful.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Just needed the right women

    They admitted women who aren't ragin' liberal carpet munchers.............it's their club they can invite who they want.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Pogo

      You're right...they needed manly men women. When's your mom going to be admitted?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Beverly S

    That's great news.. But can they play anytime they want or do they have to wait for the men to Tee off fist on Saturday's and then they can play after 10:30 OR 11AM ?

    Equality means just that!

    August 20, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • brian

      equality means that you would have a chance to be accepted as well. that isnt the case.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      Give liberals what they want and they STILL complain! Trying to appease liberals works about as well as it did when Chambelain tried in with Hitler.

      August 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Calvin

      Angry feminists are just so ugly....

      August 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      i have to agree with you...they are monstrously ugly and haters of women for their idealogy is erroneous and to turn women into men...

      August 21, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      ...the feminists

      August 21, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Women play and were always able to play, as invited guests by a member (member need not be present).

      August 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • DaveYoung

      As long as they don`t invite Obama to play, they can tee off whenever they like.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. vhaze

    Soooo, they caved. Wow. Sorry but I am of the thinking that there can be exclusive clubs that go by gender. The line between men and women is getting so blurry that so many seem confused on how to behave, relate, or what to expect. I have to work through my kids childhood while my husband is at home. He doesn't make a good house husband and I am at a directionless job because I lack the desire to be management. The world is a hot mess.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Liberatus

      Maybe if people weren't so quick to judge one another, everyone could just be who they are–and not worry about conforming to some pre-conceived gender roles. Confused on how to act? Ridiculous.....you mean to get other's approval, right?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. geoprge

    now Augusta has a condom squeeser

    August 20, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. meme

    They probably would have admitted women sooner but these old codgers seem intent on not letting anyone tell them what to do...
    The question of a women's locker room is easy, women have been playing there forever just as guests of members etc so they always had a locker room.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. Hmmm

    Does this mean I can now go into Curves?

    August 20, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Al

      My wife said Curves is for fat old ladies.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Liberatus

      Why would you want to go into Curves?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marvs257

    Well they are definitely qualified members in my mind. CEO of IBM and former secretary of state.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Marvs257

      What would be interesting is I want to watch Condoleezza play golf lol. Is she any good?

      August 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. LOL

    Now they're going to want their own showers, changing rooms, sauna and all the other things I have no idea about.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bandit's Girl

    Yes, in the year 2012 I am very surprised about this... Does anyone know if the Augusta National Golf Club has any Black or Hispanic male members, or is Dr Rice their version of "killing two birds with one stone?" She being Black and a female... I agree with what someone posted earlier, how is this news...

    August 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. jaxr127

    So what was the the problem when it was an all male club?

    August 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jerome Horowitz

    Golf – the biggest field for the smallest balls

    August 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      This is true, however those with any skill in life knows that it's not how big your balls are, it's how you swing your club. 😉

      August 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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