Atlanta's Augusta National opened its greens to women this week, and I thought I heard "Hallelujah!" in the back nine.
Since its founding by golf's Grand Slam champ Bobby Jones and Wall Street financier Cliff Roberts in 1933, Augusta National has not admitted women as members. This all came to a head earlier in the year when the club did not extend a membership invite to Virginia Rommety, the new CEO of IBM— presumably because she is a woman. Traditionally, the top exec at Big Blue is invited to join the club.
[Related: CRN's 2012 Women of the Channel]
National has been under fire almost since its inception for the no-women policy, according to the golf club's Web site. Still, the strong survive: For instance, 10 years ago, a woman's group challenged the club, which refused to change under then-president Hootie Johnson. The Master's suffered a loss of sponsors, but was back the following year.
But yesterday, that all changed. Two eminently qualified women will be the club's first female members: former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and VP of investment banking firm Rainwater Darla Moore.
“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," said Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman Billy Payne in a prepared statement.
Seems about time. To some, the amount of time that has transpired is disgraceful. However, it's not appropriate to dictate membership policy to a private club. And, if a private organization changes a policy it deems unfair, it has that right as well. By waiting until now, Augusta has attempted to dampen any perception that the decision was made at gunpoint. Out from under the glare of the media attention surrounding the Rometty debate, Augusta made the right decision. Now, women will be able to gather with men in a very powerful place, break bread together and discuss business.
“I am delighted and honored to be a member of Augusta National Golf Club. I have visited Augusta National on several occasions and look forward to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity,” Rice said in a statement.
It's all about opportunity. Hopefully, this will not be a "token" decision on the part of Augusta, but one that will become a part of the club's fabric. And then, more golf-loving, accomplished women will be fitted for the green jacket, and will meet up at the 19th hole.