The Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters tournament, has accepted its first black member.
Club Chairman Hord Hardin said today that Augusta accepted "seven or eight" new members and a "black gentleman" was among them.
"We now can confirm we do have a black member," Hardin said today, adding that it is club policy not to disclose names of its members. "I don't intend to disclose their names. The black gentleman was one of seven or eight new members."
During last month's PGA Championship at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., there was an uproar over the club's exclusionary membership policies.
At the time of the Aug. 9-12 event, Hardin said Augusta already was considering blacks for membership.
"I know it's going to work," Hardin said today. "I think as he settles in he will enjoy being a member, and we will enjoy having him as a member."
Hardin said in today's editions of the Augusta Chronicle that the club's first black member "should have a chance to be a member, rather than to be some oddity."
In the wake of the Shoal Creek controversy, the Professional Golfers' Assn. of America, the PGA Tour and the U.S. Golf Assn. adopted new guidelines requiring private clubs that wish to play host to tournaments to demonstrate that they do not discriminate against minorities or women.
The Masters is a private tournament under the auspices of Augusta National, not under the jurisdiction of the PGA. Unlike many clubs, where there are long waiting lists to join, membership at Augusta is by invitation only.
But officials at CBS, which televises the Masters, had talks with Augusta National officials regarding membership policy, and civil rights leaders had announced plans to protest next spring's Masters if the club were not integrated.
After the Shoal Creek controversy, CBS was assured by Augusta officials that "they were taking steps to ensure that the tournaments we televise would have non-exclusionary membership policies," said Susan Kerr, director of communications for CBS Sports.
Kerr said today that she was unaware of any communications between the club and CBS Sports regarding the club's new black member.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery, who had vowed to protest the Masters if Augusta National remained all white, said today he was pleased by reports of a black member.
"It's a good first step," Lowery said. "I hope they go on to admit women, do business with black-owned businesses, support athletic programs at black colleges, use black vendors at their activities.
"We're not just talking about membership. We've got to move beyond that."
Augusta National reportedly has no women members, although wives of members are allowed to play the course.
Lowery, who was active in the Shoal Creek dispute, said he was not personally notified of the move to desegregate Augusta National.
The New York Times reported today that the new member is someone who also was the first black member at another private golf club.