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Masters of the (golf) universe? Augusta's first female members wield political influence

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Photo of a woman in a 1907 golf costumeNinety-two years ago to the week after American women gained the right to vote, they finally gained access to the hallowed greens of one of the the nation's premier golf clubs. The two historic firsts are connected, as the first two women admitted to Augusta National definitely have political prowess, whatever their golf skills. 

Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, newest members of the fabled club that annually hosts the Masters golf tournament, have taken very different paths to political prominence.

  • CNN described Moore, an investment executive with Rainwater Inc, the firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater, this way: “Don’t mess with Darla, She is not just Mrs. Richard Rainwater.” That is especially true when it comes to campaign contributions. Since 2000, Darla Moore has contributed $135,000 to politicians; during the same period, her husband has donated $92,000, during the same time. Moore has been generous to both sides of the aisle. The biggest recipient has been the Democratic National Committee, receiving $10,000. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. is her biggest individual recipient receiving $7,000 according to Influence Explorer.
  • Rice has exercised her influence via policy rather than political contributions. The ex-diplomat and Stanford University professor surfaces only once in Influence Explorer: In 1997, she gave a $250 contribution to George W. Bush, then running for governor of Texas. That investment took her a long way: When he was later elected president, Bush named Rice his national security director, and later, secretary of state. She was the subject of a flurry of rumors that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney might name her his running mate but Rice insisted she had no interest in making the 2012 race.

But the two women's high political profiles contrast with that of IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty. Earlier this year, there was considerable buzz that Rometty would be the first to crack the glass ceiling at Augusta's pro shop by taking the seat traditionally accorded to her company's CEO. But that never happened. Rometty has no profile on Sunlight's Influence Explorer, indicating that she's not a political player.

As an African American, Rice helps Augusta's image in more ways than one: Though located in Georgia, a state where 30 percent is population is black, the club did not admit its first African American until 1990.

The effort to get women into Augusta has taken a long time: Martha Burk lead an effort to integrate the club while she was Chair of National Council of Women's Organizations from 2000 to 2005

(Image credit: Wikicommons)