Augusta National announced today that Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were recently admitted as the first two female members in the 80-year history of the club, which has been routinely criticized in recent years for its all-male membership.
“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club,” Chairman Billy Payne said in a press release to the media. As chairman, Payne is the only member of Augusta National who is allowed to talk to the media about anything regarding the club, or the Masters. “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.
“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.”
Augusta National has come under fire many times, including before the Masters this year, because it didn’t have any female members. In 2002, Martha Burk began criticizing Augusta National. She staged a sparsely-attended protest down the street from the 2003 Masters.
The topic was in the news earlier this year because of the appointment of Virginia Rometty as CEO of IBM. Augusta National has traditionally invited the CEO of IBM, one of the sponsors of the Masters, to be a member. Rometty was not yet a member by the time the Masters started in April, sparking an uncomfortable press conference for Payne. Payne usually deflected the questions by answering that Augusta National’s membership decisions are private. His comments were more subdued than former chairman Hootie Johnson, who said during the Burk years that Augusta National wouldn’t admit female members “at the point of a bayonet.” He eventually pulled all TV sponsorship from the Masters for two years rather than let them be targeted by protest groups.
“I am delighted and honored to be a member of Augusta National Golf Club,” Rice said in a statement released by 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 special opportunity.”
Moore’s statement was just as effusive: “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. 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.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC.com