Condoleezza Rice among the first female members at Augusta National Golf Club

Augusta National Golf Club has admitted female members for the first time, granting entry to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.

Augusta, the site of the prestigious Masters golf tournament, has never before admitted women in the club's 80-year history. Chairman Billy Payne called the change in policy a  "joyous occasion."

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"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership," Payne said, according to The Associated Press. "It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall. 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."

Rice said she looked forward to playing the famed course.

"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 separate statement. "I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world."

Augusta National has taken heat for years for limiting membership to men. In 2002, the club's then-chairman resisted public pressure to change the policy by saying it wouldn't come "at the point of a bayonet."

President Obama called for women to be admitted in April, with White House spokesman Jay Carney saying that while it was "up to the club to decide," the president's "personal opinion is that women should be admitted."

Mitt Romney also said women should be allowed to join the club. 

"If I could run Augusta, which isn't likely to happen, of course I'd have women," Romney said during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. 

Over Twitter, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) praised the club's news.

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