It's about time.
That is the prevailing feeling after Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne announced Monday that Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore have been admitted as the first female members in the exclusive club's storied history.
From golf industry insiders to fans of the game, from those who once picketed outside the front gates on Washington Road to those who simply believe in equal rights, the majority opinion is that this was the right move at the right time.
Actually, though, that feeling is a bit obtuse.
It was beyond time.
Anyone considering this decision analogous to a double eagle on the course should remember that it comes on the heels of years of triple bogeys.
This was never an easy argument for either party. Club officials for years allowed only that theirs is a private entity and would be treated as such, regardless of public outrage. Meanwhile, many outsiders countered that this mentality should have gone the way of persimmon heads and balata balls, which is to say it needed some major upheaval.
It should come as no surprise that in the end the first two female members were invited on the club's own terms rather than as a direct reaction to the public.
In fact, on the heels of this announcement we should be left wondering if Martha Burk's defiant stand against the policies coupled with repeated pressure from the media wasn't counterproductive to amending the situation. After all, there were rumors of impending female members prior to Burk's protests of a decade ago; it was almost as if the club didn't acquiesce simply because it didn't want to be viewed as giving in to those outcries.
But those are just semantics now. This isn't a day for debating the timing of the announcement, but instead for celebrating that it finally happened.
While any private club certainly has the legal right to allow or deny a member based on gender, race or any other insubstantial criteria, Augusta National owns a moral obligation to conform to standards more befitting an organization of its considerable power.
That's not because it chooses to host a golf tournament for the world's most elite players every April nor because it opens the gates to paying customers for that event.
No, more than anything it's because in recent years club officials have chosen to help grow the game worldwide.
Through a startup program, Augusta National has spearheaded a rally to get more junior golfers involved with the game, even offering free admission to the Masters for youngsters accompanied by an adult. It has also branched out to other regions of the world, in part founding the Asian Amateur Championship, whose winner will be invited to the Masters each year.
From the beginning, it was an uncomfortable conundrum. A club with exclusionary policies attempting to create more inclusionary practices within the game? It was akin to shot-making Masters winner Bubba Watson championing the cause of hitting the ball dead straight every time.
It was imperative that Payne and his green jacket-clad cohorts understand the conflicting nature of those messages and correct the flaws.
If you don't believe me, just ask them.
This momentous decision was undoubtedly as much about taking a moral stand as it was about realizing the error of their ways and the contrasting viewpoints within the cozy clubhouse confines.
Suffice it to say, Augusta National doesn't often offer a press release to announce new members. In fact, year after year, Payne and his predecessor Hootie Johnson have consistently claimed that such policies are forever an internal matter that will be dealt with accordingly.
The fact that a release was penned on Monday only speaks to the severity of the matter in the eyes of the current membership. It shows a complicit understanding of a long-time issue and even a certain amount of pride that the right call was enforced, no matter the timing.
"It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall," Payne said via the statement. "This is a significant and positive time in our club’s history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family."
It is indeed a day for celebration when the world's most famous exclusionary golf club retracts its previous policy and finally, thankfully admits its first two female members.
Don't confuse it for what it's not, though.
This isn't a new era. About time? More like beyond time. Augusta National Golf Club is just catching up to the rest of the world.
- Tiger out of AT&T with elbow injury | Timeline
- Woods, McIlroy to play in Dubai Jan. 2014
- Rose highlights Travelers | Groups | Tee times
- Fantasy: Travelers Championship rankings, picks
- Rose media tour | 'Top 10' | 'Today' | 'Dan Patrick'
- Punch Shot: Will Mickelson ever win an Open?
- Li, 10, in Publinx match play | Nine-year-old's 58
- Grill Room: Seinfeld tells golf jokes on 'Late Night'
- Nike signs No. 1 am | Deere invite for Spieth
- Obama mentions Rory in Belfast speech
- Stock watch: Buying the champ, selling runner-up
- Weekly Fix: Finding the right tempo and path