For the first time in its 80 year history, Augusta National Golf Club is admitting female members.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina Financier Darla Moore have accepted invitations to join the home of the Masters tournament.
Ten years ago the National Organization for Women pushed Augusta National to admit females. But former club chairman Hootie Johnson said Augusta would not be pressured “at the point of a bayonet” to change its all-male membership.
Stan Byrdy, who’s written two books on the history of golf in Augusta, believes the NOW campaign actually delayed efforts to get women members in Augusta.
He says “Instead of that helping to foster that change, it in effect worked in just the opposite manner.
Glenn Sheeley, a former sports writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution who is now Director of Communications for the Golf Club of Georgia, says now Billy Payne is chairman, things have changed.
“You didn’t feel like it really bothered Hootie Johnson that much that there wasn’t a woman member. But since Billy’s been Chairman of Augusta National, it’s something that’s really bothered him, I think." he says. " Cause it doesn’t speak well for a lot of the things he wants to do with the club.”
Sheely says “This has always been about more than just the club. It’s the Masters being the main identification for the club. That made it a much more public feeling. And it put a lot more pressure on them cause they couldn’t be just a golf club. They represented one of the most prominent tournaments in the world.”
Byrdy says “I think it changes the Augusta National for the better. It shows they have an ear to the public. It shows they are a great community supporter here in Augusta.”
Billy Payne offered the following statement on behalf of the Club:
“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club.
“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.”
The women will join the club when it opens for a new season in October.