Billy Payne will end his run as Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters after 11 years of service effective October 16th. Fred Ridley has already been elected to replace Payne as Augusta’s 7th chairman. Payne will be staying on with the official title of Chairman Emeritus.
Payne saw Augusta National through a period of long-overdue modernization. Most notably, it will be recorded that Payne was chairman when Augusta National finally admitted their first female members. That it took until 2012 for Darla Moore and Condoleezza Rice to be invited to join the club is still an embarrassment that will haunt Augusta National for years to come. But, progress that comes late is still progress.
Another important change at Augusta National that came through the leadership of Payne was the hosting of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition on the Augusta grounds. The event has quickly become a treasured part of Masters Week closely rivaling the popular Par-3 Contest.
Payne was also instrumental in the expansion of the club itself. Large pieces of property were purchased around the club to allow for the re-imagining of the practice facilities and the creation of a world-class media center among other things. While the patrons will always come first at The Masters, Payne knew that the players and the press were key to keeping the tournament alive and well going into the future.
New chairman Fred Ridley comes with an impressive resume as he becomes the leading force at Augusta. Ridley won the U.S. Amateur in 1975 and played in three consecutive Masters in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Along with a very successful career in law, Ridley also served as the president of the USGA from 2004 until 2005. He would then become the President of the Competition Committee at Augusta National in 2007 where he served until accepting the position of Chairman. The tournament and its patrons appear to be in good hands.