Billy Payne is retiring as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, the club announced Wednesday. He will be replaced by Fred Ridley.
Payne, who turns 70 in October, had served in the role since 2006 and was instrumental in modernizing Augusta National, admitting the club’s first female members and growing the game worldwide.
Ridley, a former president of the USGA, has served as the competition chairman since 2007. A former U.S. Amateur champion, Ridley, 65, is the first chairman to have played in the Masters (1976-78).
Payne will retire from his role Oct. 16 and become chairman emeritus.
“The privilege I experienced serving as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” he said in a statement. “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.”
|Augusta National Golf Club chairmen||Years served|
|William H. Lane||1976-1980|
|Hord H. Hardin||1980-1991|
|Jackson T. Stephens||1991-1998|
|William W. Johnson||1998-2006|
|William P. Payne||2006-2017|
|Fred S. Ridley||2017 -|
Payne’s 11-year term – the second-longest in club history – was arguably the most transformative in the 84-year history of Augusta National.
In 2012, the club announced that it had admitted its first female members, marking a significant departure from the previous tenure of Hootie Johnson, who had vehemently defended the male-only membership policy. ANGC now has three female members: Condoleezza Rice, Darla Moore and Virginia Rometty.
Payne has also succeeded in growing golf worldwide, creating the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship on the eve of Masters week, starting amateur tournaments in Asia and South America, and spearheading golf’s return to the Olympic Games.
As much as the course has stayed the same inside the ropes, Payne has significantly upgraded areas like building a new media center and Berckmans Place, for corporate hospitality. In one of his final acts as chairman, the club purchased land from neighboring Augusta Country Club that secured the course’s border and made room for the possible expansion of the par-5 13th hole.
Payne and Ridley were elevated into their new roles in 2006, when Ridley became the chairman of the competition and rules committee.
Ridley, who becomes the club’s seventh chairman, was a past president of the USGA from 2004-05. In the 2013 Masters, Ridley was involved in a controversial rules situation involving Tiger Woods, when he gave Woods a two-shot penalty instead of disqualifying him for taking an improper drop.
Said Payne: “Fred will be an excellent chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.”