“My single greatest strength is seeing through the smoke into chaos, and operating where everything is exploding,” she told Fortune.
Her interest in golf, you ask? For one thing, the family firm, Rainwater Inc., bought Pebble Beach. And she is a longtime close friend of Hootie Johnson, the former chairman of Augusta who was so (unfairly) vilified by Martha Burk a decade ago for its all-male policy.
After reading up on Moore, what’s striking is that Augusta has hardly invited a couple of magnolias to become the first female members — these are unshrinking, even threatening women who have taken care of plenty of male adversaries. Moore once ousted T. Boone Pickens from his own company, Mesa Petroleum, and we all saw how Rice outlasted defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, telling the president, as she relates in her memoir, “I don’t intend to spend my energy sparring with Don. I’m going to lead U.S. foreign policy and I don’t need his input.”
Rice took up golf in 2005 as a stress reliever, but she’s already a 14 handicap. She told Golf Digest last year that she has hired Graeme McDowell’s swing coach, and is strong enough to have played a round with Phil Mickelson. Get this. The first time she played Pebble, she parred the opening hole. “I don’t like anything that’s just an ‘escape,’ ” she said. That’s what Augusta has let itself in for.
A lot of people rushed to take credit-by-association for this “joyous occasion,” as Augusta Chairman Billy Payne put it. Burk hit the radio and suggested it couldn’t have happened without her, even though her protest a decade ago was a comic exercise, as well as an insult to the right of privacy. The commissioner of the PGA Tour and chairman of AT&T both issued applauding statements, even though they were hardly on the front lines when it came to lobbying Augusta to open its doors to female members.
In fact, only two people are responsible for breaking the gender barrier at Augusta: Rice and Moore. Moore was under consideration for membership years ago during the Burk affair, but declined to lobby publicly because she understood that something more important than symbol was at stake: It has never been the right thing to use political pressure to compromise a club’s privacy. Augusta members are past due in admitting women, but it’s far preferable that they did so voluntarily. It spares them a good deal of ridicule that the women they invited in are no tokens, but the most commanding people in the room.
Joining Augusta is not an achievement. It’s a luxury. The achievement came years ago.
For previous columns by Sally Jenkins, visit washingtonpost.com/jenkins.