Augusta National, which opened in December 1932 and did not have a black member until 1990, is believed to have about 300 members. While the club until now had no female members, women were allowed to play the golf course as guests, including on the Sunday before the Masters week began in April.
The issue of female membership never went away, however, and it resurfaced again this year after Virginia Rometty was appointed chief executive of IBM, one of the Masters' corporate sponsors. The previous four CEOs of Big Blue had all been Augusta National members, leading to speculation that the club would break at least one tradition — membership for the top executive of IBM or a men-only club.
Rometty was seen at the Masters on the final day wearing a pink jacket, not a green one. She was not announced as one of the newest members.
Most players at the Masters steered clear of the issue when it was raised, citing the private nature of the club. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem also tried to stay out of it. In some of his strongest comments in May, he said the Masters was "too important" for the tour not to recognize the tournament as an official part of the schedule.
Finchem commended the club on Monday.
"At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport," Finchem said.
Three-time Masters champion Gary Player tweeted, "Great news. Augusta National admits its first female members in 80 years: Condoleezza Rice & Darla Moore."
"I think it's great," Tim Clark of South Africa said Monday after his runner-up finish in the Wyndham Championship. "Obviously it shows a sign of the times and like I say, Augusta's a place I love, love going there to play and love the tournament. So it's nice to see them do this now and kind of get everyone off their backs."
Moore, 58, first rose to prominence in the 1980s with Chemical Bank, where she became the highest-paid woman in the banking industry. She is vice president of Rainwater, Inc., a private investment company founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater, and she was the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Fortune Magazine,
In 1998, Moore made an initial $25 million contribution to her alma mater, the University of South Carolina, which renamed its business school after her. She pledged an additional $45 million to the school in 2004. And last year, she pledged $5 million to the college for a new aerospace center. She also pledged $10 million to Clemson University in her father's name.
Moore was mentioned as a possible Augusta National member during the height of the all-male membership debate in 2002. She and Johnson worked on South Carolina's $300 million capital campaign in the late 1990s.
"Augusta National has always captured my imagination, and is one of the most magically beautiful places anywhere in the world, as everyone gets to see during the Masters each April," Moore said. "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.
"Above all, Augusta National and the Masters Tournaments have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me."
Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush and became secretary of state in his second term. The first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, she now is a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
"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 the club. "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 recently was appointed to the U.S. Golf Association's nominating committee.
Johnson regarded the membership debate as infringing on the rights of a private club, even though every April it hosts the Masters, the most popular of the four major championships, which brings in millions of dollars through television rights for the highest-rated telecast in golf.
In a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, Johnson the all-male nature of the club was more important because of four parties for members only, instead of who gets to enjoy one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
"Our club has enjoyed a camaraderie and a closeness that's served us well for so long, that it makes it difficult for us to consider change," he said. "A woman may be a member of this club one day, but that is out in the future."
The membership issue might now shift across the Atlantic to the British Open, which returns in 2013 to all-male Muirfield Golf Club.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Greensboro, N.C., contributed to this report.
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