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Is Augusta National Going In a New Direction Or Was It a PR Move to Add Two Female Members?

Augusta National
Andrew Redington / Getty Images

It is a new day in golf and a day that many have waited more than 80 years for. It was announced yesterday that Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the PGA’s Masters tournament, has two female members for the first time in its 80-year history. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina Financier Darla Moore will receive their green jackets when the club opens for a new season in October – both women have accepted their invitations.

This debate has raged for years, but really heated up in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations challenged Augusta National to include women in their membership. Then club chairman Hootie Johnson made a famous statement that could have cost the club Masters television sponsors for as long as two years, when he said Augusta National might one day have a woman in a green jacket, “but not at the point of a bayonet.”

That comment took on a life of its own, but the ball was rolling. Johnson retired in 2006 and was replaced by current chairman, Billy Payne who said yesterday about the club’s newest members, “This is a joyous occasion.”

Tiger Woods for one has been critical of the club’s exclusion of women for several years and was elated to hear yesterday’s announcement. By the way, Augusta National opened in 1932 and did not have a black member until 1990.

The controversy quieted some until this year’s Masters rolled around after Virginia Rometty was appointed CEO of IBM, a major sponsor of the Masters. The previous four IBM CEOs, all men, were members of the club and the speculation was that Rometty would become the first female member, but that did not happen.

In today’s world, the idea of any organization blocking membership to anyone based solely on gender and or race seems ridiculous and way out of bounds. When you think about it, it’s really pretty amazing that it has taken this long for Augusta National to come into the 21st century, but it has now… or has it?

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