Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped shatter one of sports’ biggest remaining glass ceilings for women on Monday when she and South Carolina business executive Darla Moore became the first female members of the Augusta National Golf Club.
The 80-year-old home of the Masters has weathered tremendous criticism in recent years for its refusal to admit women as members to the exclusive club. The controversy peaked in 2002, when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations mounted a large-scale public campaign designed to pressure the club to include women.
But former club chairman Hootie Johnson remained steadfast in his pledge to avoid doing so until his retirement in 2006, even at the cost of losing television sponsorship. He believed that the membership debate infringed on the rights of a private club.
Billy Payne, however, has proven himself much more progressive and realistic than his predecessor. He lauded both women in calling Monday’s announcement “a joyous occasion.”
However, the issue of female membership again became a hot-button issue earlier this year following Virginia Rometty’s appointment as the chief executive at IBM, one of the Master’s biggest corporate sponsors. Augusta National had a tradition of automatically extending membership to the top executive of IBM, only to exclude Rometty.
President Obama even weighed in on the issue in April, saying that “women should be admitted.”
Rice, 57, served as the national security advisor under President George W. Bush before becoming Secretary of State in his second term. An avid sports fan, she became the first African-American woman ever named a Stanford University provost in 1993. Rice is currently a professor of political economy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Moore, 58, first began making her name in finance with Chemical Bank in the 1980s, eventually becoming the highest-paid woman in the banking industry. She currently serves as vice-president of Rainwater, Inc., the private investment firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Moore was the first woman profiled on the cover of Fortune Magazine.
Augusta National opened in December 1932, but did not admit its first black member until 1990. Women had only been previously allowed to play the course as guests. The club is believed to have roughly 300 members.