Rae’s Creek did not run dry. The ancient oak behind the clubhouse did not tip over in shock. Life at Augusta National blissfully
Payne consistently has argued against this being any sort of extraordinary move. In a 2013 interview he noted that bringing
in Rice and Moore was “nothing more than the manifestation of doing the right thing when we wanted to do it.”
Payne did not arrive at this breakthrough overnight – it came more than six years into his chairmanship. Despite his protests,
the addition of women members (now numbering three at last count) at Augusta National forever will occupy the first sentence
of the golfing part of his long resume.
- Modernization and construction. Payne likes to build stuff. See 1996, Centennial Olympics. Unlike so many of the Olympic venues in Atlanta, the building
around Augusta National has more a sense of permanence.
The champions got a nice, renovated locker room. All the players got a new 18-acre practice facility (originally envisioned
by Payne’s predecessor Hootie Johnson). The media got a new mansion in which to compose its odes. The swells got a fancy hospitality
area off No. 5.
For a tournament billed as a tradition unlike any other, they went all cutting edge at the Masters. They began experimenting
with broadcasting in 3D and 4K, whatever that is.
And, most importantly for everyone with just regular televisions, they began loosening up a bit on the Masters broadcast window,
in 2011 adding an hour of coverage on Thursday and Friday. ESPN began televising Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest. (Memo to the new
guy: Add even more on-air time; the audience is nowhere near the saturation point).
- Enlarging the club's footprint. In the past couple years, Augusta National has spread like a middle-aged waistline. The club recently closed a deal to buy
a sliver of Augusta Country Club to both gain a little more privacy and to give itself the option of expanding the par-5 13
th hole if it suits a need. That's someone else's call now. Is a longer 13
th coming? "I don't know, you'll have to ask that question of Fred (Ridley, the next chairman). We have exhaustively studied
options, all the statistics. As time evolves, now that we have the real estate to what he decides," Payne said.
The club bought up homes and businesses, rerouted roads and completely redesigned a huge area to the north to carve out a
free parking landscape used one week of the year.
You do not want to be the stump in the path of any bulldozer driven by the chairman.
- Grow golf initiative. In 2014, the first Drive, Chip and Putt national finals for kids 7 to 15 was held at Augusta National the Sunday before Masters
week. A year earlier, a mere 14-year-old, Tianlang Guan, got in the Masters by winning the Augusta National-inspired Asia-Pacific
Championship. It was Payne's objective to plant seeds of golf with new generations and upon new continents.
“We have been fairly active in that area. I’m not sure we have enough time, members or staff to have done much more over that
same period of time than we did,” Payne said. “Part of the mandate that we all receive – me specifically as chairman – is
the love and passion for the game of golf that our founders had.”
- Lecturing Tiger Woods. It was after Woods had his philandering melt-down in late 2009 that Payne used his 2010 pre-Masters press conference to
declare that the four-time tournament champion had "disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids.
“Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children,” Payne said in an extraordinary criticism
coming from a pulpit that usually reveres its champions.
Reaction was mixed. Critics would find it all just a little patronizing. Other issues have overcome Woods since, and he has
missed three of the last four Masters.
The outgoing chairman wants him back. “I can tell you Tiger and I are friends and I have been very supportive of him, very
hopeful for a return,” Payne said Tuesday.
“I want him to play, of course I want him to play.”