Augusta National Admits Two Female Members

Without fanfare and under no duress, Augusta National Golf Club has finally admitted its first female members. The private club in Georgia and site of the annual Masters Tournament has invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women members in the 80-year history of the private club.

"This is a joyous occasion," said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne in a statement. "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. 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."

In 2002, Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations came out in a very public way that the club needed to include women in its membership. Then club chairman Hootie Johnson famously responded that Augusta National might one day admit a woman as a member, but not at the point of a bayonet."

When Burk heard the news that Rice and Moore were invited to join the club, she said, "Oh my God. We won. It's about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. But it's a milestone for women in business."

Tiger Woods, who knows Rice through their connection to Stanford University, was pleased with the move. "I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf," said the four-time Masters champion. "The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways. I would like to congratulate both new members, especially my friend Condi Rice."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who has stayed out of the controversy in the past, saying the Masters was "too important" to the Tour, responded to the announcement, saying, "At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport."

Though the club had no female members before Monday, women were allowed to play the course as guests, including on the Sunday before Masters' week in April. Collegiate and pro tour women golfers have also played the fabled course.

Of her membership, Rice said in statement released by the club: "I have visited Augusta National on several occasions and look forward to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity.

"I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. 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, like Rice, a native of South Carolina, is good friends with Johnson, who gave his consent to the admittance of both new members. "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.

"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 Tournaments have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me."

In a statement to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Johnson said: "This is wonderful news for Augusta National Golf Club and I could not be more pleased. Darla Moore is my good friend, and I know she and Condoleezza Rice will enjoy the club as much as I have."