After more than 11 years, Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairman Billy Payne has stepped down from the post. He announced Wednesday he will retire from a role he has held since May 2006.
“The privilege I experienced serving as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” Payne said in a release. “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.”
Payne's successor is former USGA president Fred Ridley, who has been an Augusta National member for years and has recently been chairman of the Masters Competition Committees.
Payne has been one of the most important chairmen in club and Masters history. Payne, 69, developed the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur and Drive, Chip and Putt to expand the Masters brand, as well broaden the profile of the game around the world and with fans of various ages.
Payne also oversaw the club's expansion, including a new press building, the Berckmans Place hospitality, a world-class short-game and practice facility and the recent purchase of land from neighboring Augusta Country Club which could set the stage for lengthening the par-5 13th. He also was chairman when the club welcomed its first female members in 2012.
Ridley, 65, will become the seventh man to be Augusta National and Masters Tournament chairman when the club opens again in the fall.
“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,” Payne said. “Fred will be an excellent chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.”
Ridley, who lives in Tampa, is a partner lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP, where he serves as national chair of the firm’s real estate practice. He is an accomplished golfer, winning the 1975 US Amateur and playing in the 1977 Walker Cup. He's the last US Am winner to not turn pro. He played in the Masters three times, making him the first chairman to compete in the Masters. He was USGA president in 2004-05.
Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairmen
- Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts (1933-1977)
- Bill Lane (1977-1980)
- Hord Hardin (1980-1991)
- Jack Stephens (1991-1998)
- Hootie Johnson (1998-2006)
- Billy Payne (2006-2017)