Augusta National, the famed hallowed ground of American golf, finally admitted its first two female members to the elite, albeit sexist golf club: former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore. Rice is an avid golfer and Moore is a close friend of Augusta’s former chairman, Hootie Johnson.
Augusta National, with all its allure, beauty, history and controversy, has finally broken its membership barriers. Augusta has never banned women from its grounds. They can play the golf course with a male member, but could not have a solo membership.
Augusta’s decision to allow female members comes a decade after a public controversy between Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and Hootie Johnson.
In 2002 Burk sent a private letter saying that Johnson should work to include women in its membership before the 2003 Masters Tournament. Johnson was infuriated and issued a public response to the letter claiming Augusta National would not work “at the point of a bayonet.” He said the club would work to give women membership on its own timetable. This caused a media frenzy. The story and the transpiring events were published and repeated countless times in the major American media outlets. Tiger Woods was even brought into the fray when it was suggested that he should refuse to play in the 2003 Masters unless women were allowed to join the club. The Masters resumed as scheduled and Augusta worked to protect its corporate partners.
The controversy resurfaced earlier this year when IBM hired Virginia Rometty as CEO, leading some to believe that Augusta would break its traditions considering all of the last four CEOs have belonged to Augusta. Burk believed that this was the opportunity for IBM to hold its corporate sponsorship of The Masters hostage unless their new CEO gained membership. Billy Payne as chairman reminded the world that Augusta would work on its own schedule on this issue.
Set two and a half hours east of Atlanta, it is said that visitors are hard-pressed to find a piece of grass out of place, or a weed anywhere. It is a “perfect” golf property that came to life with the vision of one of golf’s all-time greats, Bobby Jones. It is my favorite golf tournament to watch and the golf course I most want to check off my golfing bucket list.
I congratulate chairman Billy Payne for taking this historic step to recognize the fact that women are powerful leaders and deserve equality in all areas with their male counterparts.
Today women can rejoice at this enormous step in the right direction for women and girls, not just golfers, everywhere. I personally hope Rice and Moore team up to take on the male members and beat them!