Newsmaker of the Year No. 4: Augusta National


The news reached beyond golf’s boundaries like nothing else in the game in 2012.

Augusta National Golf Club, an exclusive male bastion of the elite and powerful, announced on Aug. 20 that the club had invited its first two women members. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore made history accepting.

“This is a joyous occasion,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said.

Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez were among a legion of famous golfers who applauded the news.

“I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf,” Woods said. “The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways.”

Newsmaker No. 10: Stacy Lewis | No. 9: PGA Tour | No. 8: Jim Furyk | No. 7: British Open | No. 6: Bubba Watson | No. 5: Anchored putting

Here’s a look at how selected media reacted to Augusta National’s news:

Christine Brennan, USA Today

Purely as a symbol in this summer that has already given us the “Women’s Olympics,” Augusta National Golf Club's decision Monday to admit two women into its previously all-male membership is stunning and historic.

The last, best-known bastion of male supremacy in the nation is no more. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore have cracked the grass ceiling. They will be wearing green jackets next spring at The Masters, and girls watching from around the nation will know – perhaps only subliminally, but they'll see it nonetheless – that someday there might be a place for them in the nation's great corridors of power. 

For that's what this news is all about: allowing women into the place where the old boys' network works its million-dollar magic. It's not really about allowing women to belong and play golf at an exclusive, beautiful, private club. It's about letting them participate in the process that continues to build our nation.

Scott Michaux, Augusta Chronicle

Augusta National inviting women members is a symbol of growth, inclusion and equality, and an important one. And by finally doing so, it makes Augusta National, the Masters and the game of golf better than it was on Sunday.

“It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall,” Payne said of an event that will seal his legacy.

It will be a prouder moment for golf.

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times

My applause for the admission of the first two women to Augusta National Golf Club is tempered by a question.

They're really going to wear the green jackets like Billy Payne promised? Are we sure they're not going to be asked to instead wear green skirts?

I hate to be cynical about the landmark decision Monday by the folks who run the Masters golf tournament, but it only makes sense that the opening of a door that has been closed for 80 years would be accompanied by lots of creaks. 

The most unsettling noise came from Payne, the Augusta chairman, who said the admission of women to the club's membership was a “joyous occasion.” How sad that there are places in this country where, in 2012, gender equity is considered a “joyous occasion.”

Cheers for Augusta for admitting former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore. But it's a shame America's golf shrine is taking so long to embrace America's values.

Bob Harig,

Payne might have put up a good front in recent years, adhering to the club's long-held policy that it would not discuss membership issues and that it had every right to do as it chose in such private matters. There is no doubt that Payne felt it important to adhere to club tradition and protocol, to follow proper procedure. But it could easily be surmised that deep down, Payne wanted this all along and was simply waiting for the right time, the right place, the right way.

Karen Crouse, New York Times

For years, the 80-year-old club’s restrictive membership policies, which excluded blacks until 1990, cast it as a remnant of the antediluvian South. Whenever its exclusion of women was held up for public scrutiny, in 2002 and again this year, the club held steadfast to its practices with little concern about repercussions from golf’s top players; its network broadcast partner, CBS; the tournament’s sponsors; or the PGA Tour, which prevents courses with discriminatory membership policies from hosting its tournaments.

Augusta National conducts business on its own terms, long responding to questions about its policies by saying that it is a private club and that membership issues are a private matter. It remained consistent Monday, releasing a terse statement, which offered no further explanation, at a somewhat surprising time. 

Michael Bamberger, Sports Illustrated

Billy Payne improved August National today.

By accepting Condi Rice and Darla Moore, he made a move in keeping with the club's traditions. He admitted two people who love golf and who are prominent in their fields and who are well known and well liked by the membership. There's nothing exceptional about that. The club admits new members every fall.

But Billy parted with tradition here in two ways. First, for a club that always says membership practices are a private matter, he announced the two new members by way of press release. And the only reason he did that was because the two new members are women.

Kurt Badenhausen,

Together Rice and Moore will make up less than 1% of the Augusta National’s membership. This small percentage mirrors the number of women who currently serve as high-ranking executives and CEOs in the United States. For real gender equality to occur, women need greater opportunities within the business landscape. Or better yet, invitations to the clubhouse will do.

Sally Jenkins, Washington Post

How little those newest members of Augusta National Golf Club, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, need the clout that joining an all-male stronghold supposedly confers. On the contrary, if anyone gained status from the club's decision to include women for the first time in its 80-year history, it was the other members. Rice and Moore will class the joint up . . . When Rice and Moore slip on their green members jackets it will be an arresting moment – but not for the reasons posed by those who demanded Augusta accept a woman as a blackmailed concession to social engineering, or some lame gesture of affirmation. It will be arresting for their sheer subversion of that tired old dynamic.

What we have here isn't a case of powerful men granting acceptance to a couple of women and uplifting them to a new level of social stature. What we have here is a couple of powerfully successful women uplifting a bunch of men to new stature – and granting them social amnesty.

Darren Rovell,

It got uncomfortable again this year, as newly installed IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is a woman and CEOs of Masters sponsors usually get an invitation to be a member. Augusta National weathered the storm and, when it made its announcement Monday, did not include Rometty as one of the first two female members. Why? Because Augusta National doesn't want to be pressured by the money, and it's important to prove that it wasn't.

Newsmaker of the Year schedule

No. 10: Stacy Lewis

No. 9: PGA Tour

No. 8: Jim Furyk

No. 7: British Open

No. 6: Bubba Watson

No. 5: Anchored putters

No. 4: Augusta admits women

No. 3: Dec. 26

No. 2: Dec. 28

No. 1: Dec. 31