WJBF Staff - AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Billy Payne is retiring as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters after 11 years of substantial change that included the club inviting female members and supporting the game's growth with two international amateur tournaments.
Payne officially retires Oct. 16 when the club opens for a new season.
He will be succeeded by Fred Ridley, a former USGA president and U.S. Amateur champion who heads the Masters competition committee. Ridley will be the first chairman who played in the Masters.
Payne was invited to join Augusta National in 1997, one year after he concluded his long-shot bid to bring the Olympics to Atlanta. He was appointed chairman nine years later, and he worked to move the club into modern times without losing sight of its traditions.
Here is the official release from Augusta National Golf Club:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, announced today that he is retiring from his position at the beginning of the Club season on October 16. Payne will be succeeded as Chairman by Fred Ridley, who currently serves the Masters Tournament as Chairman of the Competition Committees.
Payne, 69, has served as Chairman since May 21, 2006. In retiring from this role, he will assume the title of Chairman Emeritus.
During his tenure as Chairman, Payne was a collaborative presence, bringing together golf's leading institutions to implement new ways to expand the reach of the game, such as his vision for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Latin America Amateur Championship and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. He worked to make the sport more welcoming, including the addition of women into the Club's membership and the creation of the popular Junior Pass Program during the Masters. In keeping with the tradition of constant improvement established by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, Payne directed the significant expansion and development of the Augusta National campus, leading to the creation and improvement of numerous facilities and services enjoyed by the membership and visitors to the Tournament. He also encouraged innovation, especially through the development of digital media offerings and emerging television technologies, in an effort to help reach new and younger audiences.
"The privilege I experienced serving as Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined," Payne said. "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."
Ridley will become the seventh Chairman of the Club and Tournament. Those who previously held the post are Roberts (1933-77), Bill Lane (1977-80), Hord Hardin (1980-91), Jack Stephens (1991-98), Hootie Johnson (1998-2006) and Payne.
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