Augusta National Golf Club has invited former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina-based financier Darla Moore to become its first female members "when the club opens for a new season in October," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. Augusta National Chair Billy Payne said that consideration for new members "is deliberate and private, and that Rice and Moore were not treated differently from other new members." However, he "took the rare step of announcing two of the latest members to join because of the historical significance." He said in a statement, "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." A source said that they "first were considered as members five years ago," and that both Payne and former Augusta National Chair Hootie Johnson "agreed on the timing of a female member." The source added that it was "important to Payne to be respectful of the membership process." Ferguson notes Moore and Johnson are "close friends, both with roots in South Carolina and banking." The move "likely ends a debate that intensified in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations urged the club to include women among its members" (AP, 8/20). ESPN's Rick Reilly said Payne is a “very progressive chairman." Reilly: "You knew he was going to get it done. He runs the club with an iron fist and he’s slowly dragging Augusta National ... into modern times” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/20).
LONG TIME COMING: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "It has been a long time coming, but Augusta National Golf Club has done the right thing. ... One of the last bastions of male supremacy is no more. Today, Augusta National has made a crucial statement to every girl and woman who has thought about picking up a golf club. The message is simple: You are welcome" (USATODAY.com, 8/20). ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski said of the move, "I do think it has real significance. I do think you’re going to see lots of reaction today from lots of people applauding this .... much belated move.” Wojciechowski: “It’s an important day for golf and for -- in a weird way -- women’s rights.” They “aimed high and they got a name” in Rice and now she can “use this as a platform to sort of try to change the way that people think” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 8/20). Golf Channel's Damon Hack said, "To see them take this step forward will be extremely positive to golf fans in general, but also to women.” Hack: “We talk about growing the game of golf, and the practical bounce of this move is that I think women will be more attracted to Augusta National and The Masters and therefore, more attracted to golf" (Golf Channel, 8/20).