Augusta National has finally broken its gender barrier for club membership. The exclusive Georgia golf club invited Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore to become members when the club opens for a new season in October, and both women accepted.
The acceptance of female members ends a long-standing debate that raged in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations demanded the club accept female members. That year the NCWO urged companies not to advertise on the Masters, and they urged CBS not to televise the tournament.
10 years after the issue came to the forefront in discussions, Augusta National has acted.
It’s pretty clear that Augusta National chairman Billy Payne (pictured) and the others in charge at the club succumbed to public pressure by extending invitations to women. As recently as April, Payne seemed unwilling to discuss the matter.
While I think that overall it’s better for people and organizations to be inclusive rather than exclusive, I’ve always felt that Augusta National had the right to limit membership to whomever they chose. If they didn’t want me in their club, then I wouldn’t want to play there anyhow. And if the women wanted to play golf at a beautiful, exclusive club, why not create one for themselves?
The inclusion of female members at Augusta National is probably a good step for gender equality, but we still shouldn’t lose sight of what the club is: a group that limits its membership to the most prominent and wealthy folks in the country. You think they let scrubs in there? You think they have Joe the Plumber playing rounds and hanging out in the locker room? Condoleezza Rice is one of the most distinguished women in the country. Moore is one of the richest. It may be open to female members now, but let’s not take this news to mean that Augusta National is suddenly open to everyone.