Rice, Moore get nod as Augusta opens door to women members

The Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters golf tournament, on Monday said it has admitted two women as members for the first time: former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore. 

The Augusta, Georgia club's previous status as male-only has drawn criticism for years.

Ahead of this year's Masters tournament, President Barack Obama weighed in on the matter, saying through a spokesman that he believed women should be admitted. 

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," club president Billy Payne said in a statement. 

Payne, who has refused in the past to speak publicly about membership matters, did not directly address the gender bar issue in his statement, saying only that it was a "significant and positive time" for the club and that Rice and Moore were subjected to the same review as other candidates. 

"Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time," Payne said. 

"The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different." "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. 

"I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf," she said. The club does not reveal its full list of members, believed to be around 300, although it is known that some of the most powerful men from industry and finance, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are members. 

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