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. alansretired

    Pretty soon EVERY article and TV "news" show will be nothing more than a quick intro and long list of "tweets".

    .., I wonder what Justin Beiber tweeted about this. ??? He's old enough to think "Condoleeza Rice" is actually a rice dish favorite from the country of Condoleeza.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marmaduke Idacrantz

    Only on a fishing bank, in the middle of nowhere can men enjoy an activity without women around.

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

    Oh. As long as women were invited, it's OK that women were never allowed membership. Never mind.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alfred E. Neuman

    Since 1932 women have not been allowed. Now not only are two women accepted, but one of them is Black. How convenient in an election year. The Republicans are so desperate for any vote they will do almost anything. Of course, they also have Rep. Akin to defend.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      You are WRONG. Women have not been members until now, but they have LONG been permitted as guests of members. They even have their own facilities and other accommodation – you have to trust me on this – I know.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • wontdance

      Golf is suffering world wide as it evolves into an irrelevant sport.The Augusta National Golf Club, as rich and powerful as it is, fears most that it will become irrelevant. As one who visits the club with some regularity I can accurately attest to the fact that the money raised from the masters tournament is no longer a nicety, it is now a necessity. The National has replaced it's charm with financial success; and done so in the midst of a terrible economy. Lately the club has dug deeply into their considerable funds to finance an unprecented growth curve and will do anything to maintain that curve; including new member opportunities, playing nice, giving in to public pressure, and selling the furniture if that's what it takes to feed the habit. The club became desperate about five years ago when Payne was handed the role of Chairman, and he has abandonded the quality content and historical relevance in favor of big corporate support. Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore have not been asked to join the Augusta National Golf Club, they have been invited to join the club that now resides on the site formally known as the Augusta National.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kardiac

    ANGC...Welcome to the 20th century. Do you indoor plumbing yet?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DaveYoung

    Obviously they never, never , never would have admitted The HillaryBeast.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest297

      So, what is your point?

      August 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. observer

    How many of you idiots called UN weapons inspectors liars when they reported that none of the WMDs supplied to Saddam by Israel and the US were left over? (proof: Teicher affidavit)
    And how man have apologized for being DEAD wrong and joyfully jumping on Bush's war wagon?

    August 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pass the Popcorn

      I apologize for being dead. There. Satisfied?

      August 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. observer

    Hillary is just too butt ugly to be considered as a member. Recall, her very own husband chose a short fat lady over her.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pass the Popcorn

      Says the expert on all things ugly.

      August 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KennyEee

    Are we allowed to join the womens groups now? Can we have a white Expo now? So the white male has to share everything of theirs with everyone else? Yet other groups do not? Blacks, women etc. So now I can play on the womens softball team. No more womens tennis just make coed! The best wins!! How nice it will be when there is no more womens NBA and the best play in the NBA, one organization and the best play.The local YMCA here is now a community sport center. The YW closed down years ago. No more girl or boy scouts just scouts!! I would not be able to form a club for just men. If it became BIG someone would want in that doesn't fit the group.

    August 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Feel better now that you got that off of your chest?
      Good.
      I'm glad.

      August 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KennyEee

    Why couldn't the women go form their own Augusta instead of getting in this one. We make it and everyone wants it!! If they form their own they are not going to let us in!!

    August 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. frankiesweep

    Condi is a safe choice for a colored woman... Admit a fat, loud, woman w/ 6 kids black woman then we'll talk...

    August 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. us_1776

    Augusta admits first War Criminal.

    Wonder if they'll hand her over to the Hague.

    .

    August 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. USAFrank

    People of the United States of America,
    2 excellent choices for membership.That being said, their apparently is now nowhere in America men are allowed to hang out and Play Golf without female influence

    August 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim Rugg

      Good for you usafrank. That is right and why shouldn't you have your own spot do do anything you want to do. Because we women pay taxes who cares. Stop giving in to us ... Say NONONONO sometimes. It;s ok to love your wife but tell her NO sometimes. You need your space to do what ever men do. Stop letting the girls always play with the boys. All the games SUCK when we do his. Thanks

      August 20, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JT

    Hey Augusta National! Welcome to the twentieth century!

    August 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rascal Rabble

    i guess they gonna have t'add a african flower selection to the golf course botanicals to commenmorate this event...

    August 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
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