Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, announced today that he is retiring from his position at the beginning of the Club season on October 16. Payne will be succeeded as Chairman by Fred Ridley, who currently serves the Masters Tournament as Chairman of the Competition Committees.
Payne, 69, has served as Chairman since May 21, 2006. In retiring from this role, he will assume the title of Chairman Emeritus.
During his tenure as Chairman, Payne was a collaborative presence, bringing together golf’s leading institutions to implement new ways to expand the reach of the game, such as his vision for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Latin America Amateur Championship and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. He worked to make the sport more welcoming, including the addition of women into the Club’s membership and the creation of the popular Junior Pass Program during the Masters.
In keeping with the tradition of constant improvement established by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, Payne directed the significant expansion and development of the Augusta National campus, leading to the creation and improvement of numerous facilities and services enjoyed by the membership and visitors to the Tournament. He also encouraged innovation, especially through the development of digital media offerings and emerging television technologies, in an effort to help reach new and younger audiences.
“The privilege I experienced serving as Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” Payne said. “Just as nothing can prepare you for the unique responsibilities and important decisions that come with this position, it is equally impossible to anticipate the many joys and, most importantly, the wonderful friendships that are the ultimate reward of service. This honor, however, is too great for one person to claim as their own for too long a period of time. I retire knowing it is simply the right thing to do – and at the right moment – to open the door and invite someone new to be called upon to lead, bring forth new ideas and craft a new vision that will honor our Founders and serve the game of golf for many years to come.
“I am now proud to call upon my good friend Fred Ridley to lead Augusta National and the Masters to a future that I am confident will hold new promise, while always being faithful to the principles of Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. Fred will be an excellent Chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.”
Ridley will become the seventh Chairman of the Club and Tournament. Those who previously held the post are Roberts (1933-77), Bill Lane (1977-80), Hord Hardin (1980-91), Jack Stephens (1991-98), Hootie Johnson (1998-2006) and Payne.
Billy Payne Looks Back
“This has been the greatest experience of my life.” — Chairman Billy Payne looks back with gratitude on his tenure over the past 11 years. pic.twitter.com/hPhpsLEdwX
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) August 23, 2017
Gary Player Sends Billy Warm Wishes
My best to Billy Payne and his family. We love you and The Masters and thank you both for all the memories. pic.twitter.com/VftbVwCl43
— Gary Player (@garyplayer) August 23, 2017
Jack Nicklaus Is Sad But Happy For Billy Payne
Although I say this with mixed emotions, I am really very happy for Billy Payne and Augusta National Golf Club. In his 11 years, Billy Payne has taken Augusta National and the Masters Tournament to new levels and under his leadership, the Club and the Masters have grown tremendously. Billy has been a strong leader and an innovative thinker, and I believe Augusta National, Masters Tournament patrons and the world of golf all have, in some way, benefitted from his brilliance.
I have been blessed—or perhaps it is just a reflection of getting old—that I have known every Chairman in the history of Augusta National, and as a past Masters champion and proud member of the Club, I can say we were delighted to have had Billy as Chairman for these 11 years. Although sad that he’s stepping down, we understand that Billy has a lot of good years ahead of him, as he continues to be a member of the Club and source of counsel and guidance. I am confident he will serve the Club and the game of golf in the same manner that he has in the past.
Billy has always thought about what is best for the game of golf, beyond the walls of Augusta National, but at the same time, never forsaking what is best for the Club and the membership. His rationale for leaving Augusta National at this time is again putting the Club before himself. More