Billy Payne retires as Augusta National Golf Club chairman

By The Sports Xchange   |   Aug. 23, 2017 at 7:56 PM
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Billy Payne announced his retirement Wednesday after 11 years as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club that oversees the Masters.

The 69-year-old Payne gets credit for bringing women members into the exclusive club. He took over on May 21, and presided over 11 Masters.

Payne's retirement will be effective at the beginning of the new club season on Oct. 16 and he will be replaced by Fred Ridley, a former United States Golf Association president who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur and has served as chairman of Augusta National's competition committee.

"The privilege I experienced serving as Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined," Payne, who turns 70 in October, said in a statement. "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."

Payne, an Augusta National member since 1997, will assume the title of chairman emeritus, according to Augusta National.

Payne helped bring Summer Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996 and served as head of the Atlanta Olympic Committee.

Under Payne's watch as chairman, Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore became the Augusta Nationals' first female club members in 2012, followed by Virginia Rometty in 2014. Augusta National was under pressure for more than a decade to allow women to join.

Ridley, 65, is a former University of Florida golfer who bested Keith Fergus in the 36-hole final of the 1975 U.S. Amateur, defeating Curtis Strange and Andy Bean earlier in the event.

Ridley never turned pro and is a Tampa, Fla., attorney. He held various roles with the USGA, including as president in 2004-05.

Ridley played in the Masters three times (1976-78), missing the cut in each appearance.

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