As the protest turned into a media circus, then-president William “Hootie” Johnson made it clear that Augusta National would follow its own rules when it came to inviting individuals to join and no amount of protest or pressure would cause members to deviate from the course they set.
Years passed, the protests faded, the corporate pressure NCWO hoped would be exerted did not materialize, the PGA did not threaten to pull sponsorship of the tournament and Augusta National in its own good time voted to admit two female members.
Of course, it is possible that protests and pressure made a difference. It also is possible that urgings from President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney might have made a difference. We don’t know because, as later-Augusta National president Billy Payne said, “It’s a membership issue,” and the membership would deal with it, which it did.
Two women have accepted invitations to join. Darla Moore, the South Carolina financier, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
No one doubts their qualifications. Both women have professional credentials equal or superior to other members. The fact that one of them also is an African-American was hardly worth a mention, yet another indication of how the club has changed over the years.
Indeed, in some respects Rice may well be more qualified than most members. While playing a round recently with three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, he reported that she dropped a 40-foot putt with about 18 feet of break on the final hole.
Perhaps that should be a test for membership.