NEW YORK -- Augusta National Golf Club, the prestigious home of the Masters and one of the most exclusive clubs in America, has accepted its first black member, according to a person close to the club.
That person, who refused to let his name be used, would not identify the new member other than to say he was nearly 50 years old and belonged to another private golf club, where he was also the first black to become a member.
The offer of membership was made and accepted Friday, but it is a regular policy of the club not to make the names of its members public, the individual with knowledge of the offer said. Hord Hardin, the president of Augusta National, had no comment when reached at his home Monday night.
The action by Augusta National, which is in Augusta, Ga., came in the wake of the controversy that surrounded the racial makeup of Shoal Creek Country Club outside Birmingham Ala., where the PGA Championship was held last month.
In response to the events at Shoal Creek, three of the main administrative bodies in golf -- the PGA Tour, PGA of America and the United States Golf Association -- all adopted new guidelines for 1991.
These require private clubs that want to be hosts to tournaments to demonstrate that their membership policies are not discriminatory, by policy or practice, against minority members or women.
Since the guidelines were adopted, one private club, the Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, has told the PGA Tour that it will not change its membership policies in order to hold a PGA Tour event.
As a result, the club will not be the host to 1991 Southwestern Bell Classic, a Senior Tour event.
According to officials who have been in close contact with the Butler National Golf Club, an all-male private club near Chicago that has been the site of the regular PGA Tour's Western Open, that club will announce that it will give up the event rather than change its membership policies to include women.
Cypress Point, which does not have a black member and is one of the courses used during the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, is expected to tell the tour by the end of the week whether it will conform to the new policies, an official of that club said.
The Masters is an independently run event that does not fall under the auspices of the PGA Tour. Still, Augusta National's compliance with the new standards is significant.
Because of the Masters, one of golf's four major championships, the club has long been one of the nation's most visible bastions of all-white golf.
In the midst of the controversy at Shoal Creek, Hardin said that the Augusta National had been looking for a black to invite to join the club for the past year.
"I know that sounds like something we made up," he said. "But we have just quietly tried to find the right guy and invite him to join."