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. Banana Brown

    This still doesn't change that the golf club is located in Disgusta. What a backwards, nasty city!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • yeah yeah

      LOL, you are NOT kidding, that city is stuck back in time.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ann Brush

    As usual its about money – a top sponser (IBM) just so happened to be headed by a woman who consequently couldnt be part of the club – so what to do... let her in or loose the money? Money talks.......

    August 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rae Ann Pointer

    I guess Augusta was trying to avoid the lawsuit. Picking Condi and the other woman was their repost. ha ha

    August 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Real Patriot

    only after threats, the article almost read....Rice threatens golf club with discrimination law suit.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HarvardLaw92

    Token ...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jojo

    If it was not for IBM sponsorship none of this would have happened

    August 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • p4perspective

      Wrong...The Master's Tournament needs IBM about as much as, well, they need you.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RogerBlatto

    Does Condoleeza even golf?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. putzick

    now lets see if the men can join the all female clubs.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John D Hater

    Wow, so these conservative j3rks wanna finally hang out with chicks? Amazing!!!!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cogitoergosum

    So now you just have to be Secretary of State and a corporate executive to play with the big boys knocking a little ball around a big yard.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    It must burn Liberals up that one of the first women admitted to Augusta is a die-hard Republican who worked for George Bush.

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

      Actually, as a liberal, Condi Rice's political affiliation has nothing to do with this story. It's more about the gender and race, not politics. It could have been Sarah Palin, and I'll feel just about the same.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arvid

      No. It doesn't.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jb

      No you certainly don't expect this group. To allow a liberal. I could care less.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Acutally MIke I'm tickled pink that all the racists in the GOP who think a black woman has no business in their "anglo-saxon" men only club now have this shoved down their throat. The GOP has to now be completely silent on this, or they are disrespecting one of their own. You get no complaints from me.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brody

      No, it's just Republicans that like to form these silly clubs that exclude balcks and women. The rest of us don't care about golf clubs. My bowling team has been admitting women and blcks since 1936!

      August 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Synapse

      No Mike- the fact that these 2 women are Reactionary Tokens simply ABSOLUTELY CONFIRMS the anachronistic close-mindedness of this organization. Not surprising or irritating, at all.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liberatus

      Shows how out of touch you are.....not true. I'm a diehard Democrat, and am happy they finally let in women.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Phil K

    All the possible women to admit and they choose a corrupt minion from the Bush Regime

    August 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • alan

      yeah, it's gotta be killing you that they found a woman of substance instead of some leftist shrew....

      August 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kirkewilliams

    Relax people, Condi and Darla are just there to serve drinks to the male members.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. us_1776

    Excellent choice.

    Former war criminal responsible for the murder of over half-million innocent people.

    .

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

      rainman called – he wants his common sense back.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Arvid

    This is indeed an advancement for wealthy women everywhere.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • us_1776

      LOL !!

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