Augusta National's Amen Corner. (Kara Apel, WRDW-TV)
Monday, Aug. 20, 2012
News 12's Kevin Faigle talked to Forest Hills Golf Club Pro Sara Mooney for her reaction to Monday's news.
"Yea, I was surprised," she said. "It's an 80-year tradition so it's hard to believe that they would change some of their rules and standards. Hopefully, it was a decision that they made on their own and not felt like they were, you know, criticized by the public, you know to satisfy them."
Report from News 12's Richard Rogers
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- So how did we get to this point?
It was a conversation between reporters and Augusta National Chairman Hootie Johnson -- a conversation that got testy at times.
Testy because membership issues are rarely discussed on the grounds of Augusta National. But this membership issue exploded into a story that made headlines around the world.
"Our membership is single gender, just as many other organizations and clubs all across America," said Johnson in 2002.
It was actually Johnson who made Martha Burk famous in this statement from July 2002 -- telling the world he'd been contacted by Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations and that Burk was calling for a female member before the 2003 Masters to avoid it becoming "an issue."
In a now-famous quote, Johnson said: "There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership ... but that timetable will be ours ... and not at the point of a bayonet."
It was all Burk needed to launch a national campaign, and the 2003 Masters week in Augusta was the perfect time and place.
"And I am appalled that Hootie Johnson and the members at Augusta are willing to hurt small business in order to continue to discriminate against women," said Burk back then.
Johnson and Augusta National were not about to budge.
"We'll stand firmly behind our traditions and our right to make our own policies," Johnson said.
"That is a heck of a statement to make -- that you value the ability to discriminate against women so much that you're willing to hurt local charity, local business and the citizens of the town that support you," Burk fired back.
And since Burk threatened to pressure sponsors, Johnson announced that the 2003 Masters would be commercial free.
Three years later, Johnson would step down as Augusta National chairman.
"I promise you what I'm saying is if I drop dead this second ... our position will not change," he said. "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen."
Johnson stepped aside, but the questions of admitting a female member never went away.
And in April of 2012 there were at least six questions about membership at the National. Would this be the year that a female was invited into the all-male club?
"That is a membership issue ... and I'm not going to ..." said current Chairman Billy Payne in response to a question about female membership this April.
"It sends a wonderful message to girls around the world that they could join this emblematic club ... it's not a membership question," replied one member of the media.
"Thank you for your question, sir," Payne replied.
This was just the latest testy exchange over an issue that may finally be put to rest as Augusta National goes shopping for women's Green Jackets.
For the first time ever.
Statement from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition:
"We are gratified that Augusta National has agreed to finally invite women to join the club. Darla Moore and Condoleeza Rice are both stellar examples of the character, talent, drive and accomplishment that will only enhance the club’s membership.
Having come out of UGA athletics and the Olympics, we believed that Billy Payne is the type of leader who understands the role of women in sport. It is only right that during the 40th year since the enactment of Title IX that a significant barrier to women’s equality would fall. The Masters may be owned and produced by Augusta National, but it is a quintessentially American sports landmark. That fact, together with the public support provided by the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County made the tournament and its sponsor the business of all Americans.
It is also important to note that part of the great American tradition is the right to protest injustice. This year, and many years before, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Martha Burk NOW and others engaged in peaceful direct action and protest to bring this matter to light. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition celebrates this important victory with Augusta National and our movement allies."
Report from News 12's Katie Beasley
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National is closed for the summer as they make renovations to the course. On Monday we learned those renovations include adding two new female members for the first time in its history.
They're the names on everyone's lips: Condeleeza Rice and Darla Moore, the two newest members of Augusta National.
"I think it's a wonderful day for Augusta, a wonderful day for Augusta National and it's a wonderful day for women," said Laurie Ott, one of the founding members of Augusta Executive Women's Golf and the president of the University Health Care Foundation.
"I think this decision is a step in the right direction for all women. I think it shows that we are vital in this economy and in this world," said fellow founding member of Augusta Executive Women's Golf Elaine Clark Smith.
Rice, 57, is the former national security adviser and former secretary of state under George W. Bush. Rice was also the first black woman to be a Stanford Provost in 1993. She's currently a graduate professor of political economy at the college.
"I think that it's a terrific choice. I think these two women are perfectly suited for members of Augusta National," Smith said.
Rice has spent time here in Augusta. We caught up with her in 2009 under the famous oak tree at the clubhouse.
"Absolutely beautiful," Rice said about the course. "Everyone says that it's special and it's one of the few places that I've been that actually more than lives up to what people say about it."
Moore, 58, also has her fair share of firsts. In the 80s, she became the highest-paid female in the banking industry. She was also the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Forbes Magazine.
Moore is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. In 1998, the university renamed its business school after her.
"Darla Moore and Secretary Rice, in their own right, are tremendous women. They were before this distinction. The fact that Augusta National chose these two women is a wonderful tribute and will just add to their legacy," Ott said.
After its 80-year history, the decision finally puts to rest a controversy that's followed the club for the last decade.
"I never thought Augusta National didn't want to accept women; I think they wanted to do it the right time and I think the timing is right and I think the two women are perfect choices," Smith said.
"The Masters Tournament is undeniably the best tournament in the world, and it's that way for a reason because they do things they way they want to do them and this is just another example of that," Ott said.
We are hearing from both women today.
"I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life," Moore said.
Rice added, "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."
Of course, the decision opens up other questions for many women. For example, will there be a ladies' tee? Will there be a ladies' locker room?
It could be something they're working on inside the gates right now, and we will certainly find out next April.
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 has just learned former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and business woman Darla Moore have accepted membership to the Augusta National Golf Club.
Rice and Moore are the first female members of the golf club.
Rice served as secretary of state for the George W. Bush administration. Moore is a South Carolina native whose philanthropic efforts have funded many state institutions, including the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
“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."
“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.”
Female membership was a hot topic during 2012's tournament when Virginia Rometty became CEO of IBM. The chief executives of major sponsoring companies are typically given memberships to Augusta National. After being asked multiple questions about this during his 2012 news conference, Payne was firm in his response that these "private deliberations" were not up for discussion.
The issue also came up in 2003 when Martha Burk led a coalition advocating female membership and picketed Augusta National during that year's tournament.
Then-Chairman Hootie Johnson said the club would not be pressured "at the point of a bayonet."
The issue has resurfaced virtually every year since then during the chairman's annual news conference, typically held on the Wednesday of Masters week.
Stay with News 12 as we update you with the latest on this story.