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. Jim

    What's the big deal? I don't even like golf. You hit the ball once, and you walk on grass for a while and hit it again... boring. Let women do it.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    This is something but why not elect a woman who is a pro golfer to the Augusta National Golf Club????????

    August 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dennis

    Timing is everything.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alan Jones

    Personally, I think this is a bunch of garbage. I like to see a white person try to join the Black Caucus in Washington or one of the Black Managers organizations that popped up in corporate America. Augusta should have been allowed to have whatever members they wanted w/o all the nastiness from pro-woman or pro-black organizations.

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

      u should stop expressing your thoughts. if you did that, the world wouldn't know you are knucklehead.

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

      Way to go Mother Teresa..

      August 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bongo™

    Good for the ladies !

    August 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alicia

    Why any woman would want to belong to a club filled with fat, balding, viagra intoxicated old farts is beyond me.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bongo™

    Golf sure is a lame game IMHO.

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

      Is boring...

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

    The beginning of the end...And why does any woman let alone a man want to play golf? That is the real question.As a woman who cares this means nothing. Its another money talks story.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ed Hershberger

    Welcome to the 20th century Augusta maybe some day you'll make it to the 21st...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    I thought they were admitting women? They're just admitting celebrities who happen to be women. When the first woman truck driver gets admitted, come back and talk to me.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hawksmoor

    This is surprising news, but the fact that both women are staunchly conservative is not.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobpit

      I am wondering if she asked to be admited, or did they offered?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dakota2000

    This is not sitting in at the white's only counter. This is putting a thin veneer over an organization that is just shy of being the KKK.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • alan

      right. keep telling yourself that. self delusion is a wonderful state...

      August 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobpit

      Alan and think he is right... is all smoke and mirrors..

      August 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kitty Litter

    They couldn't have picked a better woman than Condi. A dignified lady and a class act all the way!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lookbothweis

    "And why not? It worked in Blazing Saddles."

    August 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    If you are a woman and now a member of this golf club, remember who put you there – the liberals.

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

      You can thank sus now or later. Your choice. Didn't get admitted, did you?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
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