Former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice today became one of the first two women to ever be granted membership at the famed Augusta National golf club, the private golf club that hosts the annual Masters tournament that had until now no female members.
Darla Moore, an influential South Carolina fundraiser, also was granted membership along with Rice.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said it was a "joyous occasion." Payne, who took over as Chairman after "Hootie" Johnson's stint, brought the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta, Georgia. Payne has also sought to expand Augusta National's footprint internationally.
"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership," Payne said in a statement. "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."
Augusta National has come under fire for not having a female member in its ranks and the private club -- as is their right -- had always insisted they would proceed on their own timetable in admitting female members.
"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," Rice said in a statement released by Augusta National. "I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world."
Rice, who will speak at next week's Republican National Convention, is a native of the South (Birmingham, Alabama). She is also prominently associated with sports. Rice has said her dream job is to be Commissioner of the NFL. At Stanford, Rice is often known as the football team's "secret weapon" in recruiting athletes, and she has been known for mentoring Stanford's student-athletes and football players, especially during her previous stint at Stanford before she joined the Bush administration when Tyrone Willingham coached the football team.
Augusta National, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, opened in 1932, and was founded by Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur golfer to have ever lived. Augusta National has been home to some of golf's most memorable moments that have included Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Gene Sarazen.
Payne has said he would welcome female golfers -- like Michelle Wie -- to play in the Masters tournament if they ever qualified by winning a PGA tour event.