Augusta, home of the Masters, admits first female members
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) - Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters golf tournament, finally ended an all-male policy that had endured for 80 years when it announced on Monday that two women would be admitted as members for the first time.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore will become the first women to don the renowned green jackets when the Augusta, Georgia, club re-opens for a new season in October.
Augusta National's male-only status has drawn criticism for years. Ahead of this year's Masters tournament in April, President Barack Obama weighed in on the matter, saying through a spokesman that he believed women should be admitted.
"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Billy Payne, the club's chairman, said in a statement.
Payne, who has refused in the past to speak publicly about membership matters, did not directly address the gender bar issue in his statement, saying only that it was a "significant and positive time" for the club and that Rice and Moore were subjected to the same review as other candidates.
"Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time," Payne said. "The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different."
Obama had increased the pressure on Augusta National when he said in April that the club should admit women as members.
"He welcomes this development, thinks it was too long in coming but obviously believes it's the right thing to do," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing on Monday. Continued...