Darla Moore, left, and Condoleeza Rice have been invited to become the first two female members of Augusta National Golf Club.
By KAREN CROUSE
Published: August 20, 2012
Augusta National Golf Club, the private club that hosts the Masters and has come under attack over the past decade because of its all-male membership, announced Monday that it had added two female members: Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, and Darla Moore, the South Carolina businesswoman.
“This is a joyous occasion,” Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman, said in a statement released by the club.
Mr. Payne, who was on vacation and not available for further comment, added, “These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership.”
In April, at his annual news conference before the Masters, Mr. Payne deflected questions about the absence of female members in the club. Augusta National’s membership policies had become a major talking point again because I.B.M., one of three principal sponsors of the Masters, had elevated Virginia Rometty to chief executive. The previous four chief executives of the company had been given club membership.
The lack of an invitation for Ms. Rometty sparked a national discussion during the week of the tournament, with even President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, voicing the opinion that the club should open its doors to women.
“This is a significant and positive time in our club’s history,” Mr. Payne said in the statement, “and on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta family.”
Ms. Rice, 57, served as national security adviser and secretary of state under President George W. Bush. She is a professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, where she has also been provost. Ms. Rice was considered a likely candidate for Augusta National membership if it became open to women.
“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,” Ms. Rice said in a statement released by the club. “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.”
Ms. Moore, 58, is vice president of Rainwater, a private investment company founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. She rose to success in banking, becoming the highest paid woman in the industry and the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Fortune magazine. The University of South Carolina business school is named after her. The former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson described Ms. Moore as a “good friend” in a statement. Like Mr. Johnson, Ms. Moore is a South Carolina native, a graduate of the University of South Carolina and a banker.
Opened in 1932, Augusta National added its first black member in 1990. Women had been allowed to play at the club as guests of members. In 2002 Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations began a campaign that urged the club to include women before the 2003 Masters.
“There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership,” said Mr. Johnson, the chairman at the time, “but that timetable will be ours, and not at the point of a bayonet.”
Monday’s announcement seemed to be another example of Augusta National conducting its business on its own terms. The club has long responded to questions about its policy by saying that membership issues are a private matter, so even the issuing of a news release to announce the invitations to Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore was something of a surprise.
“We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National,” Mr. Payne said in the statement. “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.”
Amy Alcott, a Hall of Fame golfer, has played Augusta National as a guest. She was in the middle of a charity tournament at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y., on Monday when she found out through phone messages that women had been admitted to Augusta National as members.
“It is a great thing that it has happened,” she said.
Ms. Alcott, who said she was paired with an Augusta National member but had not discussed the news with him, added: “People have been waiting for this. Nobody functions well with an ultimatum. I said it would happen when people least expect it.”
The PGA Tour prevents courses with a discriminatory membership policy from hosting its tournaments, but in May the tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, said that when it came to Augusta National the Masters was “too important” to the tour’s interests. Referring to Ms. Burk’s protest, he said: “We were asked publicly, ‘Why wouldn’t we disengage recognizing the Masters as part of the PGA Tour?’ At that time we said we would not do that. I’m just saying our position on that hasn’t changed.”
In a statement released Monday, Mr. Finchem said, “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.”
Augusta National’s position has changed. When the club opens for a new season in October, there will be fitted green jackets for Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 20, 2012
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the year Martha Burk began her campaign urging Augusta National to admit female members. It was 2002, not 2003. An earlier version of this article also misstated the month Tim Finchem said the Masters was “too important” to the PGA Tour’s interests. It was in May, not April.