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Former Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson dies at 86

By The Sports Xchange

Hootie Johnson, whose tenure at Augusta National Golf Club was defined by pressure to invite female members, died Friday.

Johnson was 86.

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The official Instagram page of the Masters announced Johnson's death Friday afternoon.

Augusta National made the announcement that its former chairman from 1998 to 2006 passed away while citing his numerous changes to one of the PGA's four major tournaments.

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Halfway into his tenure in 2002, Johnson clashed with Martha Burk, who led the National Council of Women's Organizations.

Johnson stated at the time that women might "one day be invited but it would be on the club's timetable" and "not at the point of a bayonet."

Augusta National opened in 1931 and did not admit its first black member until 1990. It invited two women to join in 2012 -- former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore, who was nominated by Johnson.

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Before running Augusta National, Johnson became South Carolina's youngest bank president in the state in 1965 at Banker's Trust of South Carolina. He also helped integrate higher education in South Carolina in 1968 -- the same year Johnson was invited to join Augusta National.

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Besides running the club during the protests over its male-only membership, Johnson also changed the size of the course. Fourteen of the 18 holes underwent changes and the distance went from 6,985 to 7,445 yards.

During Johnson's tenure, he also introduced a second cut of rough and allowed television coverage to expand to five hours on the weekend, enabling all 18 holes to be shown.

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"He boldly directed numerous course improvements to ensure that Augusta National would always represent the very finest test of golf," August National chairman Billy Payne said in a statement. "Simultaneously, Hootie expanded television coverage of the Masters, improved qualification standards for invitation to the Tournament and reopened the series badge waiting list for the first time in more than 20 years.

"Many of these measures brought more people than ever closer to the Masters and inspired us to continue exploring ways to welcome people all over the world to the tournament and the game of golf."

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