Golf is celebrating a very special anniversary on Tuesday.
One year ago, on Aug. 20, 2013, Augusta National announced it was admitting its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. The decision ended 80 years of Augusta National as a male-only club.
“This is a joyous occasion,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said last year.
Rice was President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State from 2005-09, serving as national security adviser during his first term. She is currently a professor of political economy at Stanford, while also recently being appointed to the USGA’s nominating committee. Moore is the vice president at Rainwater, Inc. and is the founder of the Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit organized to bolster per capita income in South Carolina. The University of South Carolina’s business school is named after her.
The move came after much debate over the years, including in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations urged the club to include women among its members. Former club chairman Hootie Johnson stood his ground then when he famously said Augusta National might one day have a woman in a green jacket, “but not at the point of a bayonet.”
“Oh my God. We won,” Burk said. “It’s about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. But it’s a milestone for women in business.”
Of course, the topic of male-only clubs came into the forefront again this year.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews said in April that it had no immediate plans to follow Augusta National’s lead and allow female members, according to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. Nor would the R&A force Muirfield, this year’s Open Championship venue and one of three male-only clubs in the Open rota., to accept women.
“I do not deny the step Augusta made was a very positive one. In actuality, will it make much difference to women’s golf in America? I think probably not,” said Dawson.
In July, Dawson added that the R&A’s position is that membership policy is a club matter, and said the issue could be examined in the future. He also defended the R&A’s stance on male-only membership.
“I don’t really think, to be honest, that a golf club, which has a policy of being a place where like-minded men or, indeed, like-minded women, go and want to play golf together and do their thing together ranks up against some of these other forms of discrimination,” Dawson said. “I really just don’t think they’re comparable, and I don’t think they’re damaging.”
2012 Open Champion Ernie Els then called Muirfield “weird” for the its all-male policy a week before this year’s Open Championship at the Scottish Club.
It took many years for Augusta National to change its policy on female membership. But a year after Augusta set aside green jackets for Rice and Moore, the R&A and the Open’s male-only venues have not followed suit.
Maybe one day soon we’ll be celebrating a similar anniversary across the pond.