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. tipperttum

    The most important issue regarding the exclusionary policies of Augusta national is wealth I'd be more excited and surprised if they let a poor person in. However, I'm glad they admitted two obscenely rich women to their wealthy boys club and I'm glad that the rich guys came to the decision on their own. Maybe now women's rights groups can start focusing on more important issues that plague women around the world during the month of April, as opposed to getting irrationally upset that the rich boys wont let them play golf with them. Perhaps the government taking away subsidies from single mothers who need government help to survive would be a good place to start.

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

      Um...you need to be obscenely rich to belong because the membership fee and yearly dues are obscenely expensive - so thus only obscenely rich men and now women can join. So now it's fair. What you said is kinda like saying they should make Lear jets affordable for welfare mothers.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Peter S.

    Nice, Amy. Cnn should pay less to attention to "iReporters" (little more than an Internet poster) and more attention to "pretending to be a respectable news organization that actually spells things correctly." You go girl.

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

      Thank you. A bit of proper grammar and spelling goes a long way toward gaining respect – at least in print.

      August 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Roger in Florida

    Glad to see that two such powerful women use that power to become members of the most exclusive uppity club. Wow. Imagine if they used that power to actually do spomething that benefits OTHER women. Yes, now the rich snobby ones can play Golf. *snark*

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

    Wha? Did Augusta get a shoe aisle? Why would CLR want to join?

    August 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Zbillz1

    Welcome to the 20th. century & About Time!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Frankly Speaking..

    This wont fix ugly.. just sayin..

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

    How progressive of Augusta. Welcome to the 1940s.

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

    either you are a 50 year old single guy, or you are a wife beater

    August 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CNNuthin

    Headline: Private Clubs No Longer Allowed To Make Own Rules on Membership (When They Are Run By and For Men). Next Week: Woman's Private Club Praised For Denying Membership For White Male Youth. Group Spokesman Explains, "Allowing a Man into our organization would create tension and fear amongst the members. It would disrupt the safety of our members." Women's Rights Groups Praise it as a move towards equality. Following Week: Minorities Group Fights and Win to Get Underprivileged Minority Youth Male into Women's Private Group. Minorities Group Leaders Praise it as a victory for equality. And the wheels keep on turning...

    August 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    What a bunch of cowards!

    August 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Soo confused.

    This was not political at all. No, these two particular women were not chosen because of their views. Notice how they say they were "asked" to join and they accepted? Might well be the first women and the last women accepted.. The bigoted old white haired white skinned men have proven they they are willing to have a couple show trophies to point to.

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

    It's about time. Men like to pretend it's just a social club, but clubs like–playing golf and drinking whiskey– this is where all the big business decisions are made. Up until now, It's been just another way to make sure the power players remain male and white.

    If women were given equal opportunity in the business world, and make the same money men make–I'm sure they'd be happy to take you whiners out to dinner.

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

    Bravo, Augusta, I applaud your steps into the 20th century. I believe private organizations have the right to discriminate. Sounds bad, huh? This is America, tho, and private groups have a right to be backwards, and small minded, if they choose to.

    And for the record, there was NO legal requirement by Augusta to do this, it was their choice. As it should be. Freedom is easy when you agree with it, the hard part is to support freedom for things you don't agree with.

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

    Racist.

    August 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. I am 1.7 million illegals

    You are a J. E. R. K.....

    August 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
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