Augusta National has invited two new members and this time they’re women!
Augusta National Golf Club, aka the one of the world’s most infamous sausage parties, is entering the 21st century. A mere 22 years after the progressive and forward thinking club welcomed its first African-American member the old boys club has invited two women to become its first female members. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Vice President of Rainwater, Inc. Darla Moore will be the first ladies fitted for the green jackets members wear when the club opens in the fall.
Augusta National is home to the Masters’ Tournament, one of the four major championships in men’s golf. It is a stunningly beautiful course that can appear so green during the Masters that we wonder if there is something wrong with our televisions. Announcers speak in the hushed tones usually reserved for speaking in the Sistine Chapel. The holes on the course are named for flowers and the three hole stretch from the 11th to the 13th holes in called “Amen Corner.” Augusta is one of the cathedrals of sports, along side Wimbledon, Fenway Park, and Lambeau Field. Now, two women can play it any time they like, without being escorted by a male member.
The Chairman of Augusta National, Billy Payne called welcoming these two women as members a “joyous occasion.” You may recall that Payne’s predecessor, the cartoonishly named Hootie Johnson, when faced with a protest and loss of sponsorship money for the Masters Tournament claimed that Augusta might one day admit women but “not at the point of a bayonet.” For the remainder of his tenure as Chairman of the club, Hootie stood in the schoolhouse door wearing a scowl and his “No Girls Allowed” sign.
Current Chairman Payne took over in 2006 when Johnson retired and appeared, at least to me, more open to the idea of female members. Still, according to the ESPN article, Rice and Moore were first considered five years ago. Membership decisions are super-duper secret (think Skulls, but older, whiter, richer and without Pacey Witter) and those considered for admittance often are unaware they are being considered.
The issue of women joining the exclusive club cooled a little after its peak in 2002, but flared again this spring when Virginia Rometty became the CEO of IBM, one of the Masters’ major sponsors. The previous four IBM CEOs were offered membership to Augusta so there was plenty of speculation that Rometty would be the first lady member. Apparently, the club’s own tradition felt a little too much like “the point of a bayonet,” because instead of asking Rometty to join the club broke its own tradition. So, Dr. Rice and Ms. Moore will be the first women to join Augusta as members this fall. The change is welcome and well overdue. Twitter reactions to the news were plentiful, pointed, and hilarious (Mitt Romney took the opportunity to demonstrate he at least one female friends, and she’s African-American to boot!). Here are a few of my favorites.
So what do you think of the news that Augusta National is no longer boys only?