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. Timothy

    The worst National Security Advisor because she ignored warnings before 9-11...then she predictably got a promotion to Sect. of State where she was worse.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. snowdogg

    Well, it is a start anyway.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jamest297

    Augusta National Golf Club has never concerned itself over whether or not to admit men, women, whites, blacks, straight or gay. The only criteria are:

    1. Do you have a demonstrated and longstanding love of the game?

    2. Are you interesting?

    3. Can you afford it?

    4. Can you leave a ball mark on the green with your five iron?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jack 63

    Actually this doesn't violate thier standing membership rules since they each have a pair of balls.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ponder

    It;s for the people in america that get off their butts and try, not the poor souls that mooch off the gov, sorry Martha, your still suck.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jesse

    Augusta Country Club has found their their Clevon Little and Gene Wilder!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      You must have Down's Syndrome. Augusta Country Club is a different place.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      Do you know what down syndrome even is?

      August 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dave

    I am glad they didn't choose Rosie and Ellen or Okra Winfreefoodstamps !!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Calvin

    The Democratic Party had an official response: "While we are disappointing that the Augusta did not choose an old gay white lady and that they chose someone whose credentials we dispute, we congratulate them on choosing a minority business to provide gopher control on the course...."

    August 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HBar

    Radical

    August 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lct1119

    As Edward Abbey said, "Golf courses are at their greenest and most defeated." The most nefarious deeds are designed at golf courses with republican men. May they be struck with lightening and have goose poop glob up their spikes. ANd now the same for republican women. A pox on all of golf players.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      You must not be aware that the Augusta National Golf Club is dominated by Democrats and their wealth. Three namescome to mind:

      Bill Gates.

      Warren Buffet.

      Hugh McColl.

      What say you PROFESSOR??

      August 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Raygee

    Opra and Ellen would have been the choice of the dems. Funny to me !

    August 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Me

    Why can't a private club/business do what they want? Did I miss something?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BuckUpUS

    And she goes down in history as having done what ? I'll bey no one can name anything she accomplished. Just like George Dummya, NOTHING ! but "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"

    August 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lynne

    A private club should be able to set their own rules. Ancient or not, it was the foundation the Club was built on. Most Clubs of any kind have requirments for admittance. Why should Augusta be any different? Funny how for all the years Rice was in the public eye, never once saw her on a Golf Course or trying to get admitted to one!!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      You were not paying attention! She was the official host and greeter to the Stanford Golf Course when Tiger Woods was being recruited and she continued to be visible at all manner of golf thingys ever since.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I totally agree. I have two daughters and don't find this to be a problem at all. I don't try and go to Curves to workout....just let people do what they want. It's golf for god sake.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rick

    I thought they were admitting women. What they're doing is admitting celebrities who happen to be women. When they get there first female truck driver as a member, then they're admitting women.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • WDinDallas

      The dues are pretty high. She had better own the entire trucking company!

      August 20, 2012 at 3:20 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