It has taken almost 80 years for the Augusta National Golf Club to admit women to its exclusive club in Augusta, Ga. The club was built on the site of a plantation, and it opened in 1933, and since 1934 has been host to the Masters Tournament, which is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the United States.
Today it announced it would admit former U.S. Secretary of Stateand Darla Moore of Lake City, S.C.. The club’s exclusive policies have drawn criticism over the years in its refusal of admit black members until 1990 when a a controversy requiring all caddies to be African American brought the issue to national attention. This did not affect its refusal to allow women to join, until today. The club has defended their membership policies saying they are a private organization.
It was the top-ranked course in Golf Digest's 2009 list of America’s 100 greatest courses and is currently the No. 10 ranked course on Golfweek Magazine's 2011 list of best classic courses in the United States, in terms of course architecture.
Today’s announcement is a complete turnabout for the club and was welcomed by the new female members.
"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said in a statement in CNN. "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."
Rice is not a stranger to being “first,” as she served under Presidentas the first female national security adviser and the first African-American woman to hold the post of secretary of state. She also served on President George H.W. Bush's National Security Council staff and was a special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986.