Billy Payne to step down as chairman of Augusta National

Billy Payne, who berated Tiger Woods for his off-course behaviour and welcomed the first female members at the home of the Masters, is stepping down as chairman of Augusta National.

Billy Payne is retiring as chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club. Picture: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Payne, 69, will retire on 16 October and will be replaced by Fred Ridley, a former US Amateur champion who will become the first chairman to have played in the Masters. Ridley missed the cut in each of his three appearances in 1976, 1977 and 1978.

“I think he’ll be, as I tried to be, another great custodian,” Payne told the Augusta Chronicle. “I think all chairman after our first two founders are custodians of their dreams and aspirations.”

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Payne made headlines in 2010 when he admonished Woods, who was returning to action in the Masters for the first time since revelations about his private life the previous November.

“It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here,” Payne said. “It is the fact that he disappointed all of us and, more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.”

He also oversaw the admission of the club’s first female members in 2012. Condoleezza Rice and 
Darla Moore were invited to join nearly a decade after the club’s membership practices were criticised by a national women’s organisation.

“It was fantastic,” Payne said of the female members. “I’ve said repeatedly I don’t really make a distinction. I want to beat Condi Rice out of her $5, too. They’re golfers and they’re friends.”