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Augusta National admits first two female members: better late than never?

Posted by She's Game Sports  August 21, 2012 10:11 AM
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Augusta National, welcome to the 20th century. Maybe we can work on the 21st century next. It's been a long time -- three quarters of a century to be exact -- but Augusta National, one of the world's most exclusive golf clubs, has added women to its list of members for the first time in history. Yes, that's right. It?s 2012 and one of the world's most prominent golf clubs has just now allowed women the right to play on its course as official members. Talk about being late to the party.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne announced Monday that the first women to be added to its membership of about 300 are former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and business executive Darla Moore.

Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush and became secretary of state in his second term. She was the first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, and is currently a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Moore is the 58-year-old vice president of Rainwater, Inc., a private investment company, and founder and chair of the Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think tank which works to bolster per capita income in South Carolina. The founder and chair of The Charleston Parks Conservancy, a foundation focused on enhancing the parks and public spaces of Charleston, S.C., Moore joins Rice as one of the first two women to don a green jacket.

I don't think two better women could have been selected. Rice and Moore have arguably done more to warrant membership at Augusta than many of their male counterparts.

But why now? What was it about the women of the past decade, the past 50 years, and the past 75 years that weren't good enough? It's ludicrous to think that women of the past have not been deserving of this merit. This isn't about Rice and Moore being the first worthy candidates, not to take anything away from their accomplishments, but it's about attempting to keep an outdated, discriminatory system in place.

It's often said, "better late than never." And it's true; this is undoubtedly a good thing. However, I don't think we can consider it a cause for celebration. At the root of the issue, the announcement is rather unimpressive. Should we sing Augusta's praises for being decades behind the times?

The club isn't a stranger to discussion regarding its stale membership policies. Augusta opened in December 1932 and did not have an African-American member until 1990. While the club has had no female members, women have been allowed to play the golf course as guests, which is no consolation.

Augusta National had always declined to comment about membership issues in the past and that was the case in April, when Payne was questioned at length about the lack of female members in his annual news conference the day before the Masters. For years, the club has tried to skirt the issue and for the most part, we've let them.

The most recent debate over Augusta's membership was sparked when Augusta National did not offer membership to Virginia "Ginni" Rometty when she was promoted as IBM's first female CEO. Augusta National traditionally had always offered memberships to the CEO of IBM.

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Payne said in a statement. "We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the Club opens this fall."

If this isn't a "you've got to be kidding me" moment, I don't know what is. Yes, Mr. Payne, this is a joyous occasion, but it should have come decades ago. This story should have been written before my time, and even then it would have been overdue. The surprise that followed Payne's announcement didn't come because Augusta has made some grand gesture in allowing women in, but because it's outrageous that they hadn't done so until now.

We have seen one of these very women as security adviser for this entire nation, a black president elected in the United States, a man without legs run in the Olympics, and now women are allowed to be members at Augusta. Well done. You've finally caught up with the times.

Yes, this is a historic occasion, but Augusta deserves no pat on the back and certainly no admiration.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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