The Masters

Put me down for 5: Q&A with Masters chairman Billy Payne

As he does each Wednesday before the start of the tournament, Masters Chairman Billy Payne held his annual press conference to address a number of issues in golf, as well as the tournament specifically. Excerpts from his address can be read in the below Q&A.

1. On the impact of Arnold Palmer:
“Arnold Palmer let us all into his life; not from the distance that is typically maintained between a superstar and a fan, but into his life, close‑up, so that we could literally push him to greatness and regale in his accomplishments as though they were our own,” Payne said. “I think tomorrow will no doubt be an emotional goodbye, but at the same time, an even more powerful thank you to the man we dearly love.”

2. On the club’s strong stance against cellphones being allowed for patrons.
“You’ll have to ask the next chairman. That’s not going to change while I’m chairman. I just don’t think it’s appropriate, and the noise is an irritation to not only players, the dialing, the conversation, it’s a distraction and that’s the way we’ve chosen to deal with it.”

3. On the need for continued improvement at Augusta National:
“People always ask us why we continue to improve our campus and our facilities, which are already considered by some as without peer in the sporting world. Honestly, the answer is pretty simple In the same manner that we all inherited this wonderful Club and tournament, so, too, did our beloved founders, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, condition that inheritance on our collective adoption of the principle of constant improvement. We simply know no other way.”

4. On the possibility of implementing an alternative ball at the Masters:
“[The USGA and R&A] are working together to ensure that it does not become a problem, and as is always the case, we have great confidence in their ability to forge a solution. But of course, as you would imagine, we always reserve the right to do whatever we have to do to preserve the integrity of our golf course. But I don’t think that will ever happen.”

5. On the health of the game:
“First of all, I think golf as a sport is in better shape than some people write about. The reason I say that is there are a lot of those are measuring the business of golf. Well, some people are not good businessmen and women. You know, they make mistakes. They don’t build the courses properly; they overextend. So some of these closings have to do with the business of golf more so than the fact that people don’t want to play golf. So what we have chosen to do and hope to do, and I’ve said many times, is that we are blessed with significant resources and significant gratitude for the position that we all find ourselves in, and we are willing to commit those resources to help grow the game, and we can always do better, and we will do better.”

Photo by Getty Images

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