By Mallory Simon, CNN
(CNN) –Augusta National Golf Club has admitted its first female members, the private club announced Monday.
The decision to admit former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore of Lake City, South Carolina, ends a longstanding policy excluding women as members of the exclusive Georgia club, which hosts the Masters.
"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said in a statement. "We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. 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 served under President George W. Bush as the first female national security adviser and the first African-American woman to hold the post of secretary of state. She also served on President George H.W. Bush's National Security Council staff and was a special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986. Moore is the vice president of Rainwater Inc., the investment firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Fortunate magazine once named her among the top 50 women in business, and the University of South Carolina's business school is named in her honor.
Payne noted the significance of admitting the first women to the club. Augusta's membership, which includes titans of industry and finance, has been male-only since its opening in 1932.