Billy Payne on Arnie, mobiles and azaleas

Billy Payne

Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman, addressed the media today ahead of the Masters kicking off tomorrow and faced a media keen to get a flavour of how Augusta National will pay tribute to the late Arnold Palmer during tomorrow’s ceremonial opening tee shots.

The Georgia native, 69, said all patrons who come through the gates in the morning will be given an Arnie’s Army badge to wear, as a way of remembering the iconic golfing figure, who passed away in September last year, just five months after opting not to hit a shot at last year’s ceremony.

“I think tomorrow will no doubt be an emotional goodbye, but at the same time, an even more powerful thank you to the man we dearly love,” said Payne, who was joined in the room by members of his committee.

The Augusta National chairman also added that the mild weather has caused the azaleas to bloom three weeks early, something he’s not too happy about.

“That premature bloom,” he said, “combined with recent consecutive hard freezes, has diminished our otherwise beautiful and traditional coloring. So this year, we have decided that our color of choice is green, Augusta Green, and I hope you will agree that it is both abundant and beautiful.”

With the Open Championship now leading the way in terms of allowing the spectator to become fully interacted in a technological sense, Payne wasn’t about to suggest that Augusta National was joining the tech race.

Asked about allowing mobile phones onto the grounds, he was unequivocal in his reply.

“You’ll have to ask the next chairman. That’s not going to change while I’m chairman.”

And he didn’t want to explain his reasoning much further.

“I just don’t think it's appropriate, and the noise is an irritation to not only players, the dialing, the conversation, it’s a distraction and that’s the way we’ve chosen to deal with it.”

He also body-swerved a fairly painful attempt by one journalist to trip him up over golf’s awkward relationship with President Trump.

“I am not fully aware of anything that our President may have said controversial about the game of golf,” said Payne. “I’m not the one to judge, whatever, how his other remarks may have some influence on the game of golf, which is where my interest level resides exclusively.”

Payne also said there would be more women invited to join the club, but wouldn’t give names before informing the parties of the club’s invite. “There will be more in the future, certainly.”

On the subject of a tournament ball to be used at the Masters, Payne said he didn’t think it would happen and that he trusted the USGA and R&A to work together to forge a solution that meant it didn’t need to happen.

“We have great confidence in their ability to forge a solution,” he said. “But, of course, as you would imagine, we always reserve the right to do whatever we have to do to preserve the integrity of our golf course. But I don’t think (introducing a tournament ball) will ever happen.” Ironically, just earlier he had talked about the land acquired by the club in recent years that had given opportunity for certain holes to be extended. That, of course, shouldn’t need to happen if the USGA and R&A do their jobs. Payne, though, said all options were “under review”.

Share this Article

twitter-logo facebook-logo

Latest Videos See all videos right arrow

play button
WHO WOULD USE THIS GOLF CLUB? | TaylorMade 300 Mini Driver review
play button
Andrew Jowett
play button
BUDDIES TRIP | Does Adare Manor live up to the hype?
Adare Manor
play button
£519 DRIVER vs £150 DRIVER | What's the difference?
See all videos right arrow

Golf News

Ryder Cup: USA on brink of victory at Whistling Straits
Former Ryder Cup captain hits out at Bryson DeChambeau for "gimme" strop
Ryder Cup: Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger SWEAR at officials after ruling
7 contenders to be the next European Ryder Cup captain
Ryder Cup: Rory McIlroy DROPPED for Saturday foursomes

Other Top Stories

Tiger Woods: Inside his $41million Florida mansion
The very best pubs in St Andrews
The Scottish Golf Course Emoji Quiz!
24 lies every bad golfer tells
Doug Sanders: The extraordinary life of golf's original playboy

Quick Fault 'n' Fixes See all videos right arrow

play button
Get the ball in the air
play button
How to stop hooking the ball
play button
Use your height to maximum effect
play button
Stop de-lofting your club
See all videos right arrow