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Women golfers react to Augusta including Rice, Moore

Monday, August 20, 2012

For the first time in its 80-year history, Augusta National Golf Club has female members.

The home of the Masters, under increasing criticism the last decade because of its all-male membership, invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women in green jackets when the club opens for a new season in October.

Both women accepted.

"This is a joyous occasion," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Monday. The move likely ends a debate that intensified in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations urged the club to include women among its members. Former club chairman Hootie Johnson stood his ground, even at the cost of losing Masters television sponsors for two years, when he famously said Augusta National might one day have a woman in a green jacket, "but not at the point of a bayonet."

"I'm glad they're doing it. I think it's great news," said Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller, golfer.

"This is 2012. My God let's get this thing moving, let's move it forward," said Fuzzy Zoeller, golfer.

The Chicago area has a few golf clubs that are still all-male membership. It was nearly 20 years ago that Medinah Country Club members voted to include women.

A local foursome plays regularly at University Golf Club, a suburban course which has always been public and accepting of all members no matter their gender. The ladies say it's about time Augusta gets with the program.

"Coming from the corporate world you have the good old boy network and you kind had that with Augusta," said Carole Jamison. "It's a break through it bringing them into the 21st century."

"It take a long time, but I think it's coming around, the barriers are being broken," said Anita Odoms.

The ladies in University Park say even with an inclusive policy at their club they encounter some men with bias about women golfers. And they get great joy out of changing hearts and minds on the course.

"Guys will look up and say, oh women," said Geraldine Tyler. "But we're not slow players. We're not novices. We keep the ball moving."

"I caught them on the third hole and they allowed me to play through by the time I got to the fourth hole, so I did not let them forget it," said Dee Jones.

The women ABC7 spoke with this evening say inclusion is only good business for the golf clubs. They see more women getting into golf for the business connections and as a result spending more on lessons, equipment and attire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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