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Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush and became secretary of state in his second term. The first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, she now is a professor of political economy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

“I have visited Augusta National on several occasions and look forward to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity,” Rice said in a statement released by the club. “I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world.”

Rice recently was appointed to the U.S. Golf Association’s nominating committee.

Johnson regarded the membership debate as infringing on the rights of a private club, even though every April it hosts the Masters, the most popular of the four major championships, which brings in millions of dollars through television rights for the highest-rated telecast in golf.

In a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, Johnson the all-male nature of the club was more important because of four parties for members only, instead of who gets to enjoy one of the most famous golf courses in the world.

“Our club has enjoyed a camaraderie and a closeness that’s served us well for so long, that it makes it difficult for us to consider change,” he said. “A woman may be a member of this club one day, but that is out in the future.”

The membership issue might now shift across the Atlantic to the British Open, which returns in 2013 to all-male Muirfield Golf Club.

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AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Greensboro, N.C., contributed to this report.