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April 9, 2014

Billy Payne


CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Billy Payne, and on behalf of our members and staff, it's again my pleasure to welcome you to this year's tournament, the 78th playing of the Masters.
As is our custom, I'm delighted to be joined by many of our committee members in the audience this morning, as well as by Mr.Fred Ridley, chairman of our competition committees and of course Mr.Craig Heatley, chairman of our Media Committee.
We are privileged to once again present a tournament conceived more than 80 years ago by our founders, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.  Our directive remains uncomplicated and unchanged as we attempt to showcase this wonderful game by providing the world's best players a remarkably beautiful venue which fairly tests their skills.
Last year, we were all witness to the excitement and the exhilaration of a classic Masters Sunday, thanks in part to the brilliant play of Adam Scott and his fellow competitor, Angel Cabrera.  Beyond the drama and the theatre of the closing holes and playoff, we were equally impressed with the tremendous display of sportsmanship and mutual respect that they showed one another; a classic reminder of what makes this sport so very special.
We all remember Adam's outstretched arms on the 10th green as he realized his lifelong dream of winning the Masters.  Adam is a wonderful ambassador from the very proud sporting nation of Australia, and we are honored to call him a Masters Champion.
As is always the case, we have been hard at work since last April and we have purposefully accelerated our efforts to help grow the game of golf.  We are compelled to use our talent and our resources in that manner, because our founders would have it no other way.  None of our ideas are really original; all require the help of our many partners in the golfing world, but all trace back to this recurring mandate:  To try as best we can to make our tournament and the game of golf better.
Last fall, we conducted the fifth Asia‑Pacific Amateur Championship in China, and we welcome this week its champion, Chang‑woo Lee from Korea.¬† Recently in Argentina, we joined the R&A, and now the USGA, in announcing the creation of the Latin America Amateur Championship to be first conducted in January 2015 at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires.¬† And only a few days ago, we hosted the first‑ever national finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship right here at Augusta National.
It has often been said and written by so many of you, that every golfer's dream is to compete upon or even just see Augusta National in person.  And while these remarkable 88 young boys and girls earned that right this year, it is more important and more significant that hundreds of thousands of other kids saw how much fun they had, sat by their televisions, repeatedly telling their moms and dads that they could hit that chip even better, visualized themselves right here at Augusta next year.  And I think in doing so, they all began the process of falling in love with the game of golf.
Next year, thanks to the hard work of all of our partners, the Drive, Chip & Putt competition will dramatically expand to more than 250 qualifying venues in all 50 states, allowing more than 50,000 kids to compete for their opportunity to visit Augusta National Golf Club next spring.
As a club and an organization, we are so grateful to be a facilitator, a follower and a partner in all of these and other initiatives.  As we have said many times, we take our inspiration from our founders and from the leadership of the R&A, the USGA, The PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, the LPGA, and to all of them, we say a sincere thank you for allowing us to participate.
As for this year's tournament, and despite some of the worst weather conditions anyone can remember, we have never been more ready to host our tournament.  Historic amounts of summer rain, a catastrophic ice storm less than 60 days ago, all have significantly challenged our incredibly talented grounds and facilities staff, led by Will Jones, Marsh Benson and Buzzy Johnson.  Once again, they have responded as they always do:  Do whatever it takes to present our campus and our course in a manner which exceeds even the very highest expectations of our fans.
Sadly, and as you all know, the same adverse weather conditions also resulted in the loss of our famous and beloved Eisenhower Tree on the 17th hole.  Much more than simply a strategic factor and playing of this hole during the Masters, the Eisenhower Tree represented one our membership's most important links to President Eisenhower.  We do not yet have a definitive plan as to what, if anything, we will do to the 17th hole beyond this year's tournament.  We are closely examining play and scoring on the hole this week, and will make a decision after careful observation and consideration.
And I think quite apart from the playability of the 17th hole itself, we are in the process of determining how to permanently commemorate and remember this wonderful part of our history.  Needless to say, there are many important constituencies:  The Eisenhower Library, the golf world, our own Eisenhower Cabin, the 17th hole itself, all of our Past Champions, and of course members of Augusta National Golf Club.  Once again, we will take our time, and hopefully we will get it right.
Otherwise, and thankfully, the ice damage was essentially limited to our trees and required a herculean effort to trim and remove branches and significant debris.  Thankfully, and as I mentioned, the course itself, was not damaged.
And finally, before we address this year's tournament, I would like to call your attention to the completion over the summer of our new South Village, located just inside our Gate 9 and adjacent to the 5th green, the South Village offers continually improving Patron services, like concessions, restroom and merchandising, but now does it by embracing the architectural style of the Augusta look, which we believe our Patrons expect and appreciate.
We have so many milestones and anniversaries to celebrate at this year's tournament.  Horton Smith won the first Augusta National Invitational tournament 80 years ago.  Ten years ago, we celebrated Phil Mickelson's breakthrough as he won his first Masters.
And truly a moment the golf world will always remember, 50 years ago this week, Arnold Palmer won his fourth Masters title.  Right here at Augusta, his Army was in full force, his talent unmatched and his famous charge relentless.  He remains today a hero to so many of us, me included.
And so, Arnold, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you have given to the game of golf, and we look forward once again tomorrow, to welcoming you on the first tee, along with your great friends and fellow champions, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
This week at the Masters, we welcome a field of 97 competitors from 21 countries, including 19 past champions; a record 24 first‑time participants and six amateurs.¬† And notwithstanding the weather challenges I previously mentioned, I believe they will find our course conditions to be perfect and that our course presentation each day will provide a test of skills the Masters demands, and at the same time, produce the drama, excitement and enjoyment our Patrons and fans have come to expect.
Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize a very important member of the press among us here again this week.  This evening, our Masters Major Achievement Award will be presented to David Piper.  This award acknowledges those of you who have been instrumental in telling the story of the Masters for more than 40 years.  David, congratulations, and thank you.
Craig, with that, I want to thank everybody once again for being here, and I'm ready for a few questions.

Q.  Mr.Chairman, going back to the question on the topic of the Drive, Chip & Putt, could you share some of the reaction that the Club received after last Sunday?  And secondly, is there a thought towards extending it beyond the borders of the U.S. to bring kids in internationally?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† I was somewhat surprised that I have been approached by virtually all of our members recounting all of the e‑mails that they received quite independent of me or the organization, rather to say how wonderful they believe the effort was.
I think as we all attended, and as I've said once before, it was extraordinarily powerful.¬† I was trying to make comparisons in my‑‑ think about how I had been impacted like that before, and I can only go back to, I used to ask my mother, "How will I know when I meet my wife?"
And she would always say, "Well, you'll know.  You'll know."
And Saturday night at the banquet preceding the Sunday competition, I knew.¬† I knew that there was something very special in these kids and their families, and the excitement that and anticipation which they had for competing here the next day.¬† It was‑‑ and they responded so wonderfully.
When Ted Bishop and Tom O'Toole were giving their remarks, these little kids were following everywhere and they were being inspired by those words as we were being inspired by their presence.
It was one of the most powerful days of my life.
Whether or not and how we would expand it, I think it's like everything else.¬† You know, when you celebrate a success, everybody gets a high‑five, and you know, what can we do next.¬† I think we would view this, however, as a beginning, and try to get it better than it was, which is kind of how we try to do things.
And then at some time, perhaps, it would be time to see if it fits in internationally, and we would, of course, when we get to that point, look to all of our allies and friends to do that, principally the R&A, on an international basis.

Q.¬† Just kind of following up on that with a two‑prong question:¬† Was the 17,000 participants the first year less or more than you expected?¬† What would you expect for next year?¬† And thirdly, as a private club, a member's club that puts on what we all consider to be a pretty good tournament in April, why do you think it's your charge to try and grow the game?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, I think it's our charge simply because, you know, this is follow the leader around here, and the leaders were Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts.  What they embraced more than anything else was their duty and obligation to give back to the game, and so we feel that same mandate.  And as long as we have the resources to do it, we're going to try to do it as best we can.
I also thought in this particular case, there's so many wonderful golf organizations around the world, so many here in the United States.  I mean, every single entity to last Sunday played a very important role.  I mean, managing all the qualifications that now are going to be at 250 different places; that's a gargantuan job by The PGA of America, just the registrations.
And I suspect, it started really hot and heavy, and last year, most of the registrants came through the local chapters of The PGA of America, pushing it to the kids within their clubs.  And I'm not sure we'll ever get to that level this year; I suspect that most of the 50,000 that we think is possibly the right number will come from the online effort that's off to a very good start.

Q.  How good a start?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Last I heard, there were 15,000, 17,000 already or something.  You've got to ask the USGA to get actual; I'm known to exaggerate a little bit (laughter).  But it's off to a very good start.  We're going to be through by the end of May.

Q.  Where did the idea originate for the Drive, Chip & Putt, and how long was the gestation period between the conception of the idea and at announcement last year?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Let's see, we had been in collaboration on a lot of initiatives on the periphery with the USGA and The PGA of America, and we have also discussed a lot of bad ideas that you've never heard about because they were bad ideas (laughter).
And so as we began to discuss a multitude of ideas, this one rose to the surface and was immediately embraced by everybody, and I don't remember who the exact author of the sentence was, but it was clear from the beginning that this was a good idea and let's see if we can take it further.
CRAIG HEATLEY:  He's being modest.

Q.  In recent weeks, we've covered the Club's donation to build a cancer center here in Augusta, as well as your willingness to loan the City of Augusta money for roadwork.  Please talk about your relationship with and commitment to this community.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† Well, we have always been significant‑‑ well, first of all, we've always been interested in the success of the community at large.¬† We have always felt obligated to be a big part of that.¬† We are exceedingly grateful and happy that we can hold this world‑class event right here in Augusta, Georgia.¬† It brings us joy.
You know, it's no secret; we have significant economic success.  And if in the case of the city, it being their decision to relocate the road; and once that decision was made, we were of course anxious for it to begin because it improves the traffic flow dealing with our tournament.
So we kind of told them, don't worry about the money, that we will advance it, loan it to you, and so it helps us because the road gets built more quickly.

Q.  Golfers are notorious armchair architects.  I'm wondering if you've received many suggestions for what to do with the Eisenhower Tree and maybe what was the most interesting that you have received.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I have not.  I have read a lot that y'all have written about the subject and quotes from other players, but nobody's made a direct suggestion to me about it.

Q.  With the R&A preparing a vote later this year on admitting female members to the Club, could you offer an insight as to the benefit and enhancement Augusta National has had since you brought in a female member?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, as I've said before, we readily and joyously welcomed our lady members when that happened a couple years ago, and it remains a very good decision on our part.  We are so delighted, and I know I speak for everyone, that they are members.

Q.  Would it send a good message for golf if the R&A were to vote yes in September?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, I'm proud to be a member of the R&A and I bet you can guess how I'm going to vote (laughter).
Other than that, I would respect their process, their requirement to conduct a vote, and so the process will culminate in a decision, and as I've said, I know where one vote is going to be cast (smiling).

Q.¬† Assuming you might have had some sort of mental to‑do list when you took over as chairman of the Club, what percentage do you think you've gotten through in terms of what you've accomplished so far in your tenure, and how satisfied are you with the things that the Club has managed to do under your watch?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, I had no list because I didn't know anything about the job.  When I became a member of Augusta National, I had dreams of becoming a scratch golfer (laughter).
Have I made it there yet, Fred?
FRED RIDLEY:  Working on it (laughter).
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  However, I compete quite well here because I'm also chairman of the Handicap Committee (laughter).
You know, Scott, no list.  This is like everybody in this room; you've got a job, you do the best you can.  You surround yourself with incredibly bright people and see where it takes you.  The only difference here is, there is an unwavering, uncompromised model set by Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts.

Q.  Back to the ice storm for just a second.  When it was in the forecast, was there ever any plan or even any discussion on if the Eisenhower Tree might be saved?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Make a confession here.  At the time it happened, I was in the Bahamas bonefishing (laughter).  I received the emergency call, got back as fast as I could.  We required and received a multitude of opinions from some great arborists and botanists all over the country, frankly.
You know, somebody's got to make the decision and when there was unanimity that it was not salvageable, we made the decision to take it down.

Q.  I was thinking of the forecast before the storm, taking any pre-emptive measure to save the tree.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  No, the tree, it's too large to have done any corrective kind of work like that.  So no, I don't think that was considered.

Q.  Arnold was saying the other day that Cliff Roberts once asked him about putting a pond in front of the No. 4 green.  I'm wondering if you, as chairman, have gotten any kind of sage advice from Arnold?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Gotten a lot of sage advice from Arnold.  I don't think any that related to the golf course itself or architectural stuff.  But as a man and attempting to be a leader, I've gotten a lot of advice from Arnold.

Q.  Something you might be able to share in the way of getting to know him?  I'm sure you know him as an icon and now you know him personally.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  He should be everybody's role model.  He has time for everyone.  Incredibly unselfish, just a magnificent man.  And none of us meet that standard, but it sure is a good one to aspire to.

Q.  With the recent addition of Berckmans Place and the daily online ticket sales, we don't hear much anymore about a Patron waiting list.  Does it still exist, are there were Patrons on it and do you envision it ever opening up again?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† I guess we made a decision a few years ago that instead of continually adding to a waiting list for some kind of ego purposes, that we would make those tickets available to everyone fairly in a lottery we would conduct periodically, annually now, to allocate those tickets that come back in upon death to the public at large, but not pre‑assigned to a waiting list.

Q.  So were folks who were on the waiting list, they have their tickets?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Looking for some help; I believe that's true, yes, sir.

Q.  According to the numbers of the first two years of your Masters Tournament Foundation, compared with the first year to the second year, donations went down significantly.

Q.  Yet the Club was able to contribute more to the Foundation itself.  I wonder if you can talk a little about why you think donations went down and if the donations that the Club has been able to make have met your expectations.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Okay.  That's a great question.  I have a very simple answer.  The donations went down because the first year we started it, all the members got a little encouragement from the chairman to donate (laughter).
So when the second year rolled around, there wasn't anybody left but the new members (laughter).  So that's the phenomena you saw.
We have‑‑ what was the second part of that question?¬† I was really hoping you were going to ask the first part (laughter).

Q.  The Club itself has been able to donate more to it, and I wonder where those donations have come from.  Do they come from Berckmans Place and some of the other places?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† No, no.¬† They come from the overall financial success of the Club.¬† They are not earmarked.¬† We essentially give as much as we can every year, and then try to as best we can to use that money in our grow‑the‑game efforts.¬† But I'm sure there's a little bit of tax planning or something in all that, but it is our intention going forward to be very substantial contributors to our Foundation.

Q.  Craig Stadler and his son are playing, the first father and son ever in the tournament, was there any consideration to pairing them in the first two rounds?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I don't know the answer to that.  Our Competition Committee does the pairings, and they are presented to me.  So I can't answer that question.

Q.  Fred?
FRED RIDLEY:  Well, they are playing; they are playing today in the Par 3.  We paired them in the Par 3 (laughter).
It's certainly an issue that was considered, but all in all we think the pairings are about where they want them.  We have a good mix of international players playing morning and afternoon and then we flip them on Friday.
We're happy with the way we've paired everyone.

Q.  You always say that at the end of every year, you sit down and look at what happened at last year's Masters and try to determine how you can make it better.

Q.  Last year, there were some numerous rules questions that came up that probably weren't addressed exactly the way that you had wanted them to be.  Just wonder if you put in different procedures and policies in regards to how you handle rules issues?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, as you all know, and as I've said three times in my remarks, in a multitude of areas, we try to get better every year.  Whether it's rules, whether it's parking, traffic, we review all of those every year.
The issue that you're addressing, I think that we made the right decision.  I believe that the golf world has affirmed that.  I know that some of you disagree with the decision.  Nevertheless, I think it is important that we communicate quickly with people, as we have a serious matter under deliberation, and we're going to do that.

Q.  As a place that reveres its Champions, how does it feel not to have Tiger here?  And conversely, what kind of competitive impact do you think the record number of newcomers are going to have?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Well, we miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world.  What I like best about Tiger is, no matter where he is on a specific day, he is such a competitor.  He is always a threat to make a run and do well and win here at Augusta National.  I've told him in person many times that he could putt the greens blindfolded; he knows the course that well.  So we miss him very much.
Nevertheless, this is the Masters.  This is what we hope is the best golf tournament in the world, one of the greatest sporting events, and I think we will have a very impressive audience and have another great champion to crown this year.
What's the second part of your question?

Q.¬† The new blood with the record number of first‑timers.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† It's exciting.¬† I was on the driving range yesterday.¬† I'm still trying to run down the University of Georgia guy, Harris English, and I got to meet all the Bulldogs ‑‑

Q.  Chris Kirk?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  AndChris Kirk, I met Chris.  A lot of impressive new players with amazing, amazing talent, so let's hope they do well.

Q.  Going back to what Alex said, did you give any consideration to assigning a walking official with each group, as is done in the other Majors?  And if not, why not?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† We have‑‑ Fred will fill in if I goof this up.
We have approximately 60 officials on the course, significantly more than any other tournament.  We think we do it pretty good with the familiarity they acquire for the specific holes; some with as many as six officials on it.
So we think the way do it is pretty good, which is not to say that we would never consider a change.  But we kind of like the way we do it now.
FRED RIDLEY:  I agree.

Q.  Now with the Latin American Amateur Championship, what can be done to help the Spanish market grow within the United States?  What do you think can be done in that market?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I think that's very important and necessary.  I would say that other than the generic approach of the Drive, Chip & Putt, we have not specifically dealt with that issue.
But given the growth of the Hispanic community in the United States, both in numbers and importance, I wouldn't be surprised to see the USGA and The PGA of America concentrate more on that specific undertaking, and if they ask for our help, we'll certainly give it.

Q.  On the heels of that, with the implementation of the Latin America Amateur Championship and you have the Asia Pacific, which is going to Australia this coming year, there seems to be an amateur representative from every continent so far but Africa.  Is that something that's on the horizon that you would want to have an amateur representative from every continent to come here?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:¬† Well, that would be fun and nice.¬† We haven't thought specifically.¬† We haven't looked at the infrastructure or anything, but I'm sure at some point we'll take a look‑‑ or it could be the R&A does that; but the golf world, certainly, needs to address that.

Q.  As we can see, American culture doesn't really have special treatment, but in the players’ parking lot, we can see nine reserved parking spaces for those journalists who receive the Masters Major Achievement Award.  I think personally as a journalist, it's a very good tradition.  Could you tell us more about why you started this tradition, and I think this could be a good story for the Chinese community.
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  The award generally was begun for the purpose stated and that I enumerated a moment ago.  The greatness, the reputation of the Masters, is not 100% attributable to the fact that we are very good at what we do.  The worldwide reputation has been acquired from the way y'all have reported the stories and the drama and the beauty, and all of the things about Augusta National that are so special.  And so we know that.  We know that we didn't get there by ourselves.  And so we believed it appropriate to specifically recognize those people who have done it for such a long time to show our appreciation.

Q.¬† This year they will play the last rendition of the U.S. Amateur Pub Links tournament where the winner was given an invitation for some 25‑plus years.¬† Do you foresee a way in the future to honor and celebrate the American public golfer here at the tournament?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I don't know the distinction of those competitive kinds of events, amateur versus pub links.
So Fred, do you want to take that?
FRED RIDLEY:  Sure.  The public golfer is certainly a big part of the landscape of golf here in the United States.  I think if you look back historically when you had to be a member of a private club to even play in the U.S. Amateur, that was really the impetus to create the Public Links Championship.
The tournaments which gain admittance to the Masters, the U.S. Amateur, the Mid‑Amateur, really does cover the public golfer.¬† So we think there's a great opportunity for public golfers, for golfers of all types and abilities to play in the Masters by competing in these tournaments.
I think while that certainly is a very important segment of golf in the United States and elsewhere, we think that we have adequate opportunities for the public golfer to continue to compete in the Masters if he wins one of those tournaments.

Q.  You mentioned how the trees were hammered out there and it's obviously a little bit more sparse than it has been in the past, you can see things over and through trees.  How long do you think it will take to get it back to that full bloom?  Are we talking five or ten years, or are you going to try to get it done quickly?
CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  I think we'll address it both ways.  There are some areas that will over this summer, as soon as this summer, have some significant, immediate planning, others that will take longer, either because we're going to wait and see, or we can't find specimens large enough to really make the difference.  But we still think it's beautiful.
CRAIG HEATLEY:  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

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