It has taken the best part of a century since the club first opened its doors, but this week Chairman Billy Payne confirmed that the famous Augusta golf club will admit two women members for the first time in its 80 year history when the club opens for business again in the autumn.
Payne stated: “This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club.
“These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and resepcted by our membership.
“It will be a proud memoment when we present Condoleezza and Darla (with) their green jackets.”
Mr Payne was also moved to note that this was “a significant and positive time in our clubs history,” which is a somewhat understated reference to the fact that the club has routinely voted against allowing any women members during its previous 80 years as one of America’s most exclusive golf clubs.
It marks an abrupt shift of policy for the club which has attracted strident criticism over the years for its policies that were perceived to be somewhat sexist and elitist.
Indeed, former chairman William “Hootie” Johnson once stated that he would never admit a woman as a member of Augusta even “if I drop dead this second”, yet it was Johnson who was one of the main protagonists in Darla Moore gaining membership.
When asked if he had officially nominated Mrs Moore for membership, Mr Johnson stated “Yes. She has a long connection with me.
“I’ve had her as a guest at the club a number of times with her husband, she’s a sweet lady.”
The news comes in stark contrast to recent well publicised incidents regarding women playing or even being at Augusta. Earlier this year, the CEO of IBM, who traditionally has been invited to become a member of the club, was not offered membership. This was because, many people believe, the new CEO Virginia Rometty was a woman.
A year previously, a female reporter called Tara Sullivan (pictured below) was mistakenly banned from entering the Augusta locker room by a security guard as she wanted to interview Rory McIlroy, simply because the guard believed as a woman, she wasn’t allowed access to the club.
So does this welcome change in direction offer women hope of a fair and equal representation both in the locker room at Augusta, and out on the fairways?
Well, it’s hard to judge. Augusta will, and will always likely be, an elitist club. This may not be illegal (many other such clubs and societies exist) but it is a form of exclusion. The truth is to become a member of Augusta, being rich and famous is not enough; you have to know and have influence on the right people.
How difficult it is to even play Augusta, let alone earn membership, is shown by the blogger Top 100 Golfer. In his blog, he details all of the top 100 courses in the world he has played. Over the years he has played at 99 courses. No prizes for guessing which club still refuses him the chance to play on its manicured fairways.
So yes, Augusta’s stance is a positive step both for golf and for women in particular. However, changing the mindset by mere gestures is not enough and we at Gorilla Golf would like to see a steady influx of female members over the next few years.
And relaxing their boorish, elitist playing privileges would also go down well with us too. We have no qualms with them charging a fortune to play at Augusta, however we do feel that excluding golfers because they are not deemed ‘socially acceptable’ to play on their course does somewhat beggar belief in the 21st century.
Images courtesy of Theheroesandvillains.com, Facebook Augusta National Page