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. WDinDallas

    As long as they don't admit Obama!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. EATABIRD

    WOW!! Did they have to pick Condi Rice like it's something to celebrate???!!! That woman has the blood of so many of our young dead U.S.soldiers and marines on her hands because of her "Trumped up" lies about WMD's in IRAQ. What a disgrace!"She was National Security Advisor to George Bush". Thank you for making us so secure on 9/11 you failure!

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

    @james 3:10. LMAO. Tiger Woods was kicked off of one of Agusta's driving ranges for being black. (read about it in Sports Illustrated mag). Young Tiger was dressed in typical gangsta-style casual clothes, and the groundsleeper didn't believe he was Tiger.
    Augusta is like much of the South. Bigots who have tokens.

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

      I'm white and I've been kicked out of better places than ANGC.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dannyhotep

    high time they did that, considering south africa banned apartheid, the saudis started allowing women to drive and most other countries are generally moving towards equality....or maybe we should expect slow reaction to non-discrimination from southern buffoons anyways.

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

    Hey Bobpit,
    A man is an an abuser for hollering when he's mad. An alcoholic when he drinks a beer and a drug addict if he smokes

    August 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. gsperson

    Finally ... this story will go away and you left wing idiots will move on and complain about something else.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • mendacitysux

      Yes, let's keep bigotry where it belongs, in the GOP

      August 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • justiceleague00

      Smart move and shows how easy it is to make idiots of Americans. Now Golf has a black and female to push out in front knowing Connie Rice doesn't play Golf and will never attend. Cheney must be looking as he got over with the WMD story and even Rick Santorum still thinks he sees them.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. luvlar

    I guess they needed someone to drive the beer cart.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BuckUpUS

    If a womena does any of that...... "Awe she's just having a little fun

    August 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. token

    ...and not one has apologized for jumping on Bush's '9/11 Iraqis have WMD' war wagon and being so DEAD wrong about it.
    You willfully ignorant Americans really tick me off.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      That WAS NOT Bush's bandwagon. It was the UN's andwagon.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pass the Popcorn

      You're willfully ignorant for posting that here.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sliver

      Apologize to WHO? What a silly comment.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JC

    I thought the headline said Augusta was admitting women members. Condi hardly qualifies then.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      How do you feel about Darla Moore? She has a confirmed va_ gina.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    Women are like roaches....infesting everything they touch.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pass the Popcorn

      Aren't you witty? No. You're not. Bet you're a lonely guy.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. observer

    Wow. Agusta has their very own Condi Rice bobble head doll. What a victory for women, black.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. djtaucher

    I'm sure this is payback for some politcal favors she did for the club members while in office. If Hillary played she might be admitted too along with Palin.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Ummmm, but they DO NOT play, right!

      August 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DaveYoung

    This is a wonderful thing – as long as they don`t start admitting democrats.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      Democrats control the place.

      Have you ever heard of Bill Gates?

      Warren Buffet?

      Hugh McColl?

      Please try to catch up, will you.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pelegrim

    Ugh...nobody cares

    August 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
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