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. waterman

    Backward, regressive, and primitive conservaties of Augusta National finally bow to the pressure from civilized society. Welcome to the 20th century, ANGC.

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

      They are private and have a right to be a all male club if they want. Get over it

      August 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Huzzah! Let all edifices of dogma and bigotry and unreason and unthinking tradition crumble under the hammer blows of modernity and civilization!

      August 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      I love it how liberals demand that everyone follow their disgusting deviant values

      August 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Niel

      21st century. Just sayin'

      August 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • waterman

      @niel – no ANGC is in the 20th century. They will be in the 21st in about 50 years.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Forrestal

      John: If letting women play golf is disgusting and deviant, we've dumbed down disguting and deviant.

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

    Honestly in looking at her, I can't be sure she is a woman.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      I'm sure you get that a lot too..

      August 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • canadianscot

      I bet you have difficulty looking in the mirror when you shave. That's if you shave!

      August 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LOL

    I hope they don't add "women's tees". They wanted equal rights...they were given them. Now let them play from the men's tees and see if they can keep up.

    August 20, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jay jay

    Dentist: how dare you suggest people actually try to be successful! That no longer exists in the USA. We just want Part of your successes while We collect food stamps and have babies at the tax payers expense

    August 20, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    This would be a great accomplishment...if it was 1912! In 2012, this is just SAD that it has taken this long

    August 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jay

    Liberals:

    Augusta is backwards, primitive, etc.

    Historically black colleges and all woman colleges are wonderful examples.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy¬©

      Jay Jay, my conservative friend, you can apply to any black college or women's college that you like...nothing's stopping you.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Eugenics

    No handicap at Augusta National?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jaxr127

    Should we ask the Congressional Black Caucus and Jewish centers to join the 21st century

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

    Finally! Yeah, this just made my week.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JMD

    Has anyone ever heard of "Fortunate" magazine? Do you think they meant "Fortune" ??????

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

    Is there going to be some outrage on the right that Augusta was forced to obey civil rights laws? Or is it okay because Condi killed a million Iraqis? Does that make her an honorary man?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaxr127

      They didn't break any laws

      August 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jaxr127

    Why dont ppl get so upset and feel the same way about other exclusive organizations

    August 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Don

    Women at Augusta – check. Next up: blacks at Cypress Point. (It's just not the AT&T Pro-Am without it.)

    August 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bertdeuce

    Golf is bigger than Augusta, its a shame people don't realize that. The only reason anyone cares is that these members have money and power. The true American Dream...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thenextstep

      Well you know they would of thrown in the color issue as well if they didn't get in.... So they had all the cards stacked against them to begin with........ ūüôĀ

      August 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Captain Obvious

    Ok, so now you have overcome the long-standing obstacle to entry. You now have the privilege of paying huge fees to play golf on grass that is no better than that on a good public gold course with cheaper hot dogs.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen B

      It isn't just about the golf, it's also about the people you can meet there (i.e. future powerful social connections).

      August 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • p4perspective

      Well...good luck finding a course anywhere in the world conditioned as excellent as Augusta. Obviously you have never been, otherwise you would know that their concessions (hot dogs, egg salad , pimento and cheese sandwiches, and beverages are alot less costly at the Master's then even the most poorly run goat tracks. Augusta makes their money on the merchandise they only sell at the tournament.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
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