The all-male Augusta National Golf Club has officially admitted its first two female members -- former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina business executive Darla Moore.
Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne called the selection of the club's two new female members "a joyous occasion" and a "significant and positive time in our club's history."
"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."
Rice was Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. Moore is the vice president of Rainwater Inc., a private investment company founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Moore is also the founder and chairman of Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think tank. She was the first woman to make the cover of Fortune magazine.
"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 in a statement. "Above all, Augusta National and the Masters Tournaments have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me."
Since Augusta National Golf Club first opened for play in 1932, it has only admitted male members and did not have a black member until 1990. Martha Burk, the former chairman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, pressured the club in 2002 to admit female members.
The club's chairman at the time, William "Hootie" Johnson, counterattacked, suggesting that women may one day be admitted to Augusta National, "but not at the point of a bayonet."
"Our membership is single gender just as many other organizations and clubs all across America," Johnson, the former Augusta National Golf Club chairman, told PBS, in a 2003 interview. "These would include Junior Leagues, sororities, fraternities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organize our clubs the way we wish."
The debate over whether the club should admit women made headlines again in April when Virginia Rometty was appointed chief executive of IBM, a corporate sponsor of Augusta National. Following tradition, Rometty was admitted as a member of the club, but she was not granted membership.
AT&T, a major sponsor of Augusta National, praised the club's change of heart. "As a sponsor of the Masters, we applaud today's historic announcement by Augusta National and warmly welcome Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National," said AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson, in a statement.