Augusta National embraces tradition, prepares for future

Wed Apr 6, 2016 2:52pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - With an unwavering commitment to tradition, Augusta National has been accused of being stuck in the past but club chairman Billy Payne on Wednesday assured that the home of the Masters is prepared for change.

Even at staid Augusta National, change is inevitable and Payne was asked to gaze into a crystal ball and comment on everything from his own future and Arnold Palmer's status as an honorary starter to tweaking the golf course that hosts the year's first major.

Certainly these are far less turbulent times for one of the world's most exclusive and secretive clubs, allowing Payne to almost whimsically project about what lies ahead while speaking at his annual State of the Masters address.

Intensely private, Augusta National was in an unwanted and uncomfortable global spotlight in the early 2000s because of its long standing men-only membership policy.

After years of mounting pressure, the club finally relented and in 2012 opened its stately doors to women.

Much about Augusta National, however, remains closed with the culture of privacy intact.

Charming and chatty on the eve of the 80th Masters, Payne was loathe to reveal many details, no matter how insignificant, preferring instead to talk about the grander big picture.

"All of our members are very much aware of the responsibility that we have inherited to organize and then execute a golf tournament which we hope and believe is one of the premiere annual sporting events in the world," said Payne.   Continued...

Apr 6, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne speaks at a press conference during a practice round prior to the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports