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. blondeone

    It's about damn time!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. yeah yeah

    Rice doesn't even play golf, I mean what kind of token shenanigan stuff is this, I didn't agree on their good' ol boy mentality, just because it was more than a don't let woman thing back in their day, But hell it is a private club, so ehhhhhh, in any case to stick to their guns as long as they have and just say ohhh we're gonna allow Rice because she was a black female figure head although she's not a golfer...says lack of garganzolas and a spine. Either that or some other stuff is going on that we're not aware of

    August 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      She plays golf. Do your research.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. amy

    Can I please get a writer's position, or at least a copy editor's job, with CNN? How the heck do you misspell the name of Fortune Magazine when your own company shares its parentage with that of Fortune?!

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

    You admitted the most incompetent Secretary of State in history? Congrats.

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

      I agree, I have NO problem with women in this "club" but CR should not have been their 1st choice unless, well, maybe
      they are a conservative GOP funded organization that believes the war with IRAQ was justified.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. VAnselmo.

    As a white American male and a supporter of every persons rights, i have always admired and been proud of the accomplishments of Ms.Condoleezza Rice. She is and has always been a person that all peoples can use as a benchmark of success for all our children, male and female to admire and emulate. I am proud to call her a fellow American,and wish her a very low score at Augusta. If she plays the game of golf just a fraction as well as the game of life, she must be a daunting opponent indeed.

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

    "I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member" Woody Allen

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

      Groucho.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Scot

    Apparently "they" think that this will get the women vote now !

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

      Yeah....it's a desperate ploy for the GOP to get the women's vote. Women won't fall for it.

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

      The GOP candidates will do anything to win!!!

      August 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wow....

    Now that is just great. So when I hear them radio advertisements for Ladies only Gyms if I am bored I can take them to court to let me excercise next to them and sweat too.

    It's always so interesting that we have to push these issues of a mens only and get it conquered but I bet if it was a womens only that most men would say hey who cares.

    Congrats Condi you parents should be so proud of solving this very extremely important battle..... LOL!

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

    They should have admitted a bunch of Playboy bunnies and said "See, we let women in...now shut it."

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

    This is so stupid. Why don't these women make their own club that is just for females? They have to belong to a "men's" club for it to mean anything?

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

      Yes its the because we can theory..... Now again if you attempt to gain access to a womens gym they will cry that if men are admitted they will have to wear make up and dress nice.

      The old doube standard or basicly another PMS zoning lady complaint..... :-0

      August 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Glenn

    Just as I thought ...... The wooses gave in and let the girlies join
    Maybe we should start joining all women's clubs. This ridiculous, start calling all the clubs people's clubs and don't call them male and female anymore. I would give up my membership if I belonged.
    I think the men should start going into women's locker rooms as they do ours and see what happens
    They would have a cow.
    If they want equal lets start having them tee off where the men tee off without giving them an advantage
    Lets see how they can compete.
    Let them start getting into professional boxing with the men.........are you going to have them hit you 5 times before its you're turn to punch back
    Women are women and man is a man and men are going to be physically stronger ........too bad if you women didn't like that statement God said it. Women are the weaker vessels it's in scripture

    N

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

      @ Glenn – Good point on where would they tee off from. Does Augusta even HAVE any womens tee boxes. Why would they. Guess membership fees (probably gratis to the two women) will be going up now. Then, to be fair, maybe there are tees for members wives already?

      August 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Martin

    I wonder how many of the bigoted male long term members will quit because they admitted an african-american woman?

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

    When I went to Egypt and was offered a cigar I took one and began to smoke it not realizing a woman was in back of me . When I told the waiter that I wanted to move away as to not cause the woman in back of me to inhale smoke he told me she did not have a right to not inhale my smoke and therefore I did not need to move . I did anyway out of respect for the woman . Than I cam back to my free country called America and found women here in many ways are still treated as if they do not have the rights as men in America . I cant believe that in the year 2012 people in America still have to fight for their rights . America is only free to white rich men ! America will only be free when all can enjoy life . Until then America is not free !

    August 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NotConservative

    It's amusing that Condoleeza Rice was among the first woman inductees. Conservatives do prize her so very, very much.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. rationalist

    I see they admit war criminals too now.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      It is about time! What took them so long. Now it is time to at least admit Annika Sorenstam. :/

      August 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
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