Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne announced on Monday that the club has confirmed its first two female members.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore have been admitted to the club.

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club. We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National," Payne said in a statement. "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."

The club faced protests in 2003 as Martha Burk called for the club to accept female members. The club made no movement at the time, and Burk continued to try to force the issue the following year.

No women were admitted then either, but the 2003 and 2004 Masters tournaments went on without commercial interruption as the tournament faced added pressure from some of its sponsors.

Rice has returned to her alma mater, Stanford, as professor in the Graduate Business School.

Moore is a graduate from the University of South Carolina and was president of Rainwater, Inc., a company owned by her husband. She has donated millions of dollars back to her alma mater and South Carolina named its business school in her honor.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall," Payne added.

"This is a significant and positive time in our club's history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem released a statement that read, "The PGA Tour commends Augusta National Golf Club on the news that it has invited Condolezza Rice and Darla Moore to become its first women members. At a time when women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and following the game of golf, this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport."