Augusta National Golf Club admitted former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a partner at private investment firm Rainwater Inc., as its first female members.
"We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National," Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament Billy Payne said in an e- mailed statement. "Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different."
Rice and Moore join the private golf club in Augusta, Georgia, after the organization faced scrutiny over its lack of female members amid questions about a possible invitation to Ginni Rometty, chief executive officer of International Business Machines Corp.
Nine years ago, Martha Burk, then head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, staged a protest near the front entrance of the club founded in 1933 by golf champion Bobby Jones and Wall Street financier Clifford Roberts.
Augusta didn't have a black member until 1990, when it extended an invitation to Gannett Co. television President Ron Townsend, who still belongs. That move followed the PGA of America's decision to move its annual championship, the season's final golf major, from Alabama's Shoal Creek because of that club's all-white membership.
Payne, who succeeded Johnson as chairman of the tournament and the golf club in 2006, has previously said he has "no specific timetable" on possibly ending all-male membership.