The times they are a changing….Augusta National has finally opened its doors to female members.
The Georgian golf club has been under fire for over ten years with for their all male membership policy but today the home of The Masters announced that former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Darla Moore, a financier, will be admitted to the club in October.
In a prepared statement Augusta chairman Billy Payne said:
“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 old fashioned nature of Augusta has seen the club exceptionally slow to welcome change with the first black member having joined in only 1990, a mere seven years before Tiger Woods dominated The Masters to win his first major by 12 strokes.
It is however wrong to criticise Augusta for their glacial approach to change seeing as tradition, regularity and familiarity are also some of the defining aspects of The Masters. The course is lined with trees that were planted in 1932 by Bobby Jones and the challenges of the golf course have remained the same ever since. It is easy to compare footage and images from forty years ago to four months ago.
Augusta National is the world’s most famous golf course for many reasons but this tradition and the fact that it is the only course that holds a major each season has allowed it to be ingrained on the minds of every fan worldwide.
The news that women will join the club has been coming for years but to finally open their doors has seen the club move into a new era and it was clear that Rice is looking forward to being the first female member:
“I have visited Augusta National on several occasions and look forward to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity,” Rice said in a statement released by the club. “I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world.”
An interesting element of the story allowing female members into the club is that IBM CEO, Virginia Rometty, was not announced as a new member seeing as her four predecessors are all Augusta members.
Maybe next year she will be admitted to the club but for now the CEI of the principal sponsor of The Masters will once again be on the outside looking in at Augusta National next year.
Former Augusta chairman, Hootie Johnson, famously once said that women would one day join but the club would not be forced “at the point of a bayonet” to admit a female member. His stance cost the club money at the negotiating table for TV contracts for its major.
His comment became a major talking point with the pro and con sides of the debate on female members using it as a sign of resolve or sexism depending on their viewpoint.
Now however Augusta can finally put the matter to bed and when Rice and Moore are handed their green jackets in October.