Condi & Darla: The First Women Allowed at Augusta National

Golf is not my sport.  It requires a patience and sense of inner calm that I do not possess, and levels of hand eye coordination that I will never reach.  But golf has literally been all I could talk about today to anyone who would listen (and not just because I’ve been practicing my Wii Golf skills in anticipation of a heated Nintendo showdown with my roommate on Labor Day).

For those of you who haven’t caught the latest news on the golf front: former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and businesswoman and philanthropist extraordinaire Darla Moore were just admitted into the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club, as the first female members in the club’s 79 year history.  Augusta National is also home to the Master’s Tournament – one of the four major golf tournaments in the USA.

Augusta National is a private club, and though they have had some controversy in the past over their membership policies (most notably through media attacks led by feminist Martha Burk in 2002), they have remained staunch in their viewpoint: many clubs and societies, including the Junior League, the Boys and Girl Scouts and sororities and fraternities at colleges all over America restrict membership based on gender.  Their membership policies, to them at least, weren’t based on misogyny, they were based on decades of tradition that Augusta National didn’t feel compelled to overturn.

But here we are, with Condoleeza and Darla having gained membership to a group of extremely elite businessmen and politicians.  To be sure, the two ladies stand out amongst the pack of current members.  Aside from being on George W. Bush’s cabinet, Condi was the first black woman to be the national security adviser and is the first female (and youngest!) provost of Stanford University.  Darla not only worked for the Republican National Committee, but rose to becoming the highest paid woman in the banking industry just 10 years after she was first a trainee at Chemical Bank.  She also runs a non-profit dedicated to increasing the income of every South Carolina resident, and has spent years funding Alzheimer’s Research.

Both women are forces to be reckoned with, and can easily go toe to toe professionally with many of the current members (rumored to include Bill Gates and Warren Buffet), which is what got me thinking.  For two women so educated and so powerful in their own right, why would they want to join a club that excluded women for so long, solely on the basis of gender?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a good answer for this question.  I was never into the sorority scene much myself, but I can’t lie and say it was because I was a young feminist – I just didn’t like the idea of having to share my mascara.  I was only briefly in the Girl Scouts, but again, dropped out due to a fear of nature, not a stand against gender based organizations.

I’ve gone over this in my head all day, and while I am glad that Augusta National has changed their policies, I don’t know that I’m ready to celebrate them voluntarily allowing women in either.  I think what they are doing is commendable and will absolutely break barriers and change the face of golf for the greater good, but if I was in Condoleeza or Darla’s shoes (and believe me, those are some extremely large shoes to fill!), I don’t think I’d want to join Augusta National.  It would never sit well with me that I was a member of a club that once excluded women.

I was raised to believe that women could do anything they want, and if someone says you can’t – solely because of gender – find every way to prove them wrong, and never give them the time of day after that.  I am proud of Augusta National for taking a progressive stance of late, but I just can’t wrap my mind around what they were waiting for.

What do you think?  Am I being too harsh on the private club?  Or is it time that organizations everywhere recognized equality – for both women and men?

Feature image by Mark Ralston/Getty Images via Washington Post