PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Condoleezza Rice, golf's trophy bride, accessorized sublimely for the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.

She had a golf bag that modeled inclusivity via club covers representing the three colleges that have claimed her loyalty -- Alabama, her native state; Stanford, her current employer; and Notre Dame, her graduate school.

She had a caddie, Kathryn Imrie, with a lingering Scottish brogue and a resume that includes a win on the LPGA Tour and an assistant coaching gig at Stanford.

Above all, she had the ideal playing partner in 39-year-old Alabama grad Jason Bohn, a keep-it-loose sort whose pro career began when he won a $1 million hole-in-one competition as a Crimson Tide sophomore and instantly jettisoned his college eligibility to accept the prize. He high-fived the former Secretary of State after her 30-foot putt on the second hole dropped in and joked with her almost constantly during the round.   

It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that Bohn treated Rice, one of two women in this year's amateur field, as an equal.

It appeared that way for most of the day. Then, at the 18th tee, Bohn gave his true feelings away. He saw his partner as a rock star.

Their foursome gathered for the obligatory Pro-Am group picture, and Bohn said loudly enough for the gallery to hear: "This is the first one we're all going to put on our mantel."

He understood what it meant to have Rice at Pebble, in her first pro-am with a significant gallery, two months before she and Darla Moore would become the first women ever to attend the Masters in the green jackets of Augusta National members.

The crustiness of the game is peeling away, too slowly but still surely, leaving an exclusivity rooted only in snobbery, not discrimination. Bohn seems more than prepared for the keepers of his sport to move forward, with Rice quietly taking up a post in the vanguard.

"When she became Secretary, it was pretty empowering. It's been awesome," he said. "Three of the last four Secretary of States have been female. That shows something about that. That position must work better with a female."

It feels greedy and wrong to accept the premise of that statement. But the spirit of it?

Who knew such a thing could even waft over a PGA tournament, much less hunker down on the tongue of a player?

Rice had no interest in pioneer talk after Thursday's round. She now belongs to three clubs -- Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Monterey's Cypress Point and Augusta -- notorious for their membership policies of yore, yore being as recent as July 2012 for Augusta.

"I'm just trying to play golf," she said, "just trying to play golf."

But golf memberships are so rarely just about golf. They're about access to the elite. Rice knows that. She knew it before she took up the game.

"My parents were very strategic," Rice told the Washington Post in 2001, shortly after President George W. Bush named her National Security Advisor. "I was going to be so well-prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well, that I would be armored somehow from racism."

She started playing shortly after that, and judging by the way she moved about the course Thursday, she is making up for lost time. The 58-year-old plays very quickly. Sportswriters timed her strokes and found that from grip to swing, Rice consistently finished in under 20 seconds.

"She doesn't mess around, which is beautiful," Bohn said.

"Yeah, maybe it's a little fast sometimes," said Imrie, who has also been teaching Rice for a year and a half. "But she's doing great."

At the very least, she will skirt the stereotype of female golfers slowing down a foursome. 

Her group on Thursday included fellow amateur Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, the lead sponsor. He could have gone with any group he wanted, Bill Belichick's, Jim Harbaugh's… Somehow, he ended up with the petite, ponytailed, Republican rock star. It did not appear to be a coincidence.

After Stephenson teed off into the left rough on 4, he said to Bohn:   "You'd think playing with Condi, I'd be thinking right."


Two holes later, Rice went left on an approach shot and smacked a woman in the head, drawing blood. The woman received some hand-holding and a phone number from the former Secretary of State, to check in later. The injury turned out to be minor. Rice's game, in a nice rhythm before that, went awry for a while, and the bonhomie of the foursome tapered off until later in the back nine.

"It's really scary," Rice said later.

With her 17 handicap, she helped her team score with Bohn by a stroke, lowering his 1-under to a team 2-under.

At this point, Rice doesn't need the game as armor. It needs her more.

The Tiger boom has stalled, retreated even.  Clubs that persist in preventing women from joining, or from eating in the main dining room along with their husbands, are writing their own obituaries.

Augusta National has always maintained secretive membership rolls. It broke with tradition and announced the admissions of Rice and Moore. They would have been precluded from even acknowledging their memberships before.    Instead, Rice has been able to say that the club is letting her have a jacket tailored for a woman, rather than the boxy ones built for the old guard.   

"I'm as interested in what the jacket looks like, from Augusta, where the logo's placed," Bohn said. "I mean, I'm really interested in that stuff. And I can tell you that's one club that has thought of every detail."

He sounded genuinely excited for her, and for the sport.

After the PGA Tour called to ask if he wanted to play with Rice, Bohn said that he and his wife and their next-door neighbors collaborated on a list of questions for him to ask Rice. They struck up an easy rapport right away on the practice green, where Rice greeted him with "Roll Tide." But by early in Thursday's round, Bohn knew he had to abandon all political questions. She wasn't biting.

"She was an incredible person, a lot different than what I might have expected, to be honest, in the sense that she's real," he said.

For Friday's round, he plans to think up some NFL questions. Rice has long said her dream job would be commissioner of the NFL.

"And, you know, right now she might win in the ratings," Bohn said, for whatever reason, without any real animus toward Roger Goodell. At that point, Bohn was thoroughly smitten. He made for a wonderful partner, and the perfect accessory.