Wed, Aug 22, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Augusta National, home of Masters, opens to women

The Guardian, NEW YORK

The hallowed fairways of Augusta National, the home of the Masters, are being opened up to women for the first time, ending an increasingly controversial and anachronistic ban on female membership which had survived for 80 years.

Bowing to the not-so-modern concept of gender equality, the Georgia club announced on Monday that it had added two female members — former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.

“This is a joyous occasion,” club chairman Billy Payne said in a statement. “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,” Payne added. “It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall.”

In a statement released by the club, Rice, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser under former US president George W. Bush, said she looked forward to “playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity.”

Moore, who is vice president of private investment firm Rainwater, said being asked to join represented “a very happy and important occasion in my life.”

After successfully fending off demands to admit women members on countless occasions, the club faced intense scrutiny this year following the appointment of Ginni Rometty as IBM’s chief executive officer. IBM is a leading sponsor of the Masters and her four predecessors in the chief executive role had been invited to become members of the club, but no such invitation was issued to Rometty.

In the ensuing controversy, US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, joined the calls for Augusta to abandon its men-only rule.

Although under the old policy women were prohibited from gaining membership, they were allowed on to the course as guests.

It should not be surprising that Augusta National has taken so long to fall in line with the rest of society. The club, which opened in December 1932, only accepted its first black member in 1990.

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