Augusta National was established in 1933, but for the first time in the club's storied history, it will have female members sporting green jackets next year at the Masters, after chairman Billy Payne announced on Monday that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore will be joining the club this fall.
"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Payne said in a press release.
The decision comes after years of pressure from outside groups, including Martha Burke of the National Council of Women's Organizations who called out former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson for his decision to keep the club male members only. The move ended up costing the club television sponsors, but Augusta National was unwavering in its decision to keep the membership as is.
Pressure to add a female members once again intensified earlier this year at Payne's "State of the Masters" press conference, when a number of media members repeatedly asked the chairman about the possibility of adding IBM CEO Virginia Rometty, or any female for that matter, as a member.
"Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members," Payne said at the time, "and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement."
While Augusta National didn't necessarily cave in to the pressure of adding a female member, you can bet 10 years of having to answer the same question wore down the membership, to the point where it finally made sense to put an end to the debate.
"We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National," Payne said. "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."
The club certainly hit a home run with Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. Rice, who already has memberships at Shoal Creek, Cypress Point and San Francisco Golf Club, is an avid golfer and will fit right in with the power players at Augusta National.
The same goes for Moore, who was once the highest-paid woman in the banking industry. As the Associated Press reported, she and former chairman Hootie Johnson are good friends from their days in banking, so the move to extend her an invite as well makes total sense.
IBM CEO Virginia Rometty was the likely candidate to be the first female member -- after all, every IBM CEO has been extended membership to the club -- but you have to wonder if the club felt a move to add Rometty would make it look like the membership was pressured into the decision.
Instead, it decided to add not one, but two female members, and neither happened to be Rometty. That's just Augusta National going by the beat of its own drum. Regardless, it's big news for golf and should make next year's "State of the Masters" press conference, as Billy Payne noted, a "joyous" occasion.
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