Under Payne, Augusta National acknowledges a world outside

Billy Payne: Master of New Media. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. Who figured he'd be Master of New Media? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Augusta – In reminding us that this is A Tradition Like No Other, the Masters comes perilously close to wallowing in the past.  Nothing about the membership of Augusta National Golf Club (mostly white, mostly old, all male) suggests this crew would be familiar with any cutting edge not manufactured by Gillette.

And here again we realize: Appearances can deceive.

This place may be easy to lampoon, but this famously staid tournament is working to ensure its future. Innovation? From Augusta National? What’s next? Understatement from Lady Gaga?

Billy Payne, Augusta National’s chairman, quoted someone Wednesday — “No public event ever stands still; it either gets better or it gets worse” — and that someone wasn’t Steve Jobs. It was Clifford Roberts, who with Bobby Jones co-founded the Masters 75 years ago. (To his discredit, Roberts also said: “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white and caddies will be black.” Roberts committed suicide in 1977.)

To hear Payne’s state-of-the-Masters briefing was to touch down in Bizarro World: A 63-year-old wearing a hideous green jacket — all green jackets are hideous, tradition or no — spoke knowingly and glowingly of the Android platform and the worth of the iPad Masters app as “an immersion experience.”

Also addressed: Augusta National’s startling plans to offer tickets to actual Masters rounds next year via an Internet lottery. One of this tournament’s least admirable traditions has been its iron-fisted control of entrance badges, but now the folks off Magnolia Lane are willing to crack, if not fully open, the door. “It’s not a good chance,” Payne said, speaking of winning the ticket lottery. “But it’s a chance.”

Someone asked about the ticket prices for practice rounds, which will rise from $36 to $50 next year. Said Payne: “It’s still a pretty good bargain.” And it is. The cheapest ticket for the aforementioned Gaga’s concert at Gwinnett on April 18 is $63.70, counting fees.

Speaking of concerts and golf: The music insider Bob Lefsetz included an e-mail from Marty Winsch in his Lefsetz Letter on Tuesday. Some highlights:

Went to the practice round yesterday at the Masters in Augusta, Ga. Was not my first time there, but I was thinking all day long, “If only major labels and big-time concert promoters got it like they did” … There were four of us. We ate twice for a grand total of $25. (No beer though.)

We felt so great about the experience that on the way out we each spent approx. $200 at the shop on hats, shirts, magnets for the fridge, hat clips, embroidered flags tumblers, T-shirts … and every one of these items had the Masters logo on them. Bottom line: We didn’t spend all of our money on things with no capacity to brand — food, drinks, parking, tickets. Instead, we spent the majority of our money on things that end up promoting the event via our homes, backs, heads, golf bags, et cetera.

The Masters has long been renowned for quality control and customer service, and now the tournament is making strides toward broadening its customer base. (While retaining the concept of Free Parking!) It has embraced the Internet — indeed, Payne was asked if the Masters on the Web would be seen as “his legacy as chairman”; he had no answer — but not, it must be said, the concept of on-course clutter.

Said Payne: “At least in my tenure, you’re not going to see any video boards.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Martha Burk and then-chairman Hootie Johnson were at loggerheads. Burk ultimately overplayed her hand, but not before Johnson managed to brand himself as an old coot. Augusta National still doesn’t have a female member, but somehow this place no longer seems a den of fuddy-duddies. There’s a world beyond the club gates, and Payne, who in a former manifestation brought the world to Atlanta, grasps as much.

Not that he’s an ace at all things newfangled. The Masters, in collaboration with EA Sports and Tiger Woods, even has a video game. As an immersion experience, the Chairman challenged his 12-year-old grandson Bo to an electronic round. “I quit after nine holes,” Payne said. “I told him my back was hurting. It was match play. He was up seven.”

By Mark Bradley

64 comments Add your comment

juvenal

April 6th, 2011
1:45 pm

juvenal

April 6th, 2011
1:47 pm

thing i don’t have the time or the $ to go to-sure couldn’t afford it when i went to school there…….(sure messed up the traffic!)

Martha Burke

April 6th, 2011
1:51 pm

Please let me iron your shirts.

PMC

April 6th, 2011
1:56 pm

why do we care if the membership is mostly old mostly white and all male? It’s a club.

They give millions from this tournament to charity. It’s the best and only thing going in Augusta ostensibly….. by far the only real global yearly event in the south.

A mens club that plays golf…that happens to put on the greatest golf tournament in the world every year….that doesn’t screw it’s patrons on ticket prices, parking, consessions and actually treats the people there like people.

Women can and do play at Augusta National….they just aren’t going to be dictated to by anyone.

It’s honestly refreshing that there is a bastion of freedom still left in this nation.

I could care less about thier demographics or earnings. It’s there club. I just enjoy the tournament every year and they do so much good in the world because they put it on.

PMC

April 6th, 2011
1:56 pm

PMC

April 6th, 2011
1:57 pm

would love to have an edit feature for these comments.

PMC

April 6th, 2011
1:58 pm

Billy Payne himself, one of the best ambassadors of this state in my lifetime.

Mark Bradley

April 6th, 2011
2:01 pm

Juvenal with further kudos

Great White Shark

April 6th, 2011
2:02 pm

Why is it when a group consists predominately of white, wealthy men, it is considered “politically incorrect”?????

Let’s see a white man attempt to be signed by P. Diddy, or Jermaine Dupree’s record labels. Why are we not calling them incorrect based on their predominately black consistency?

Go walk through Underground Atlanta and look at all the young black males wearing, and selling “Black Pride” t-shirts. Think for a second if a white male or wore or tried to sell “White Pride” shirts…..

Can the B.S. about a group of white, wealthy men being politically incorrect or racists. Goes both ways, world. Wake up.

juvenal

April 6th, 2011
2:11 pm

senate is a similar group, what’s more pc than congress?(shirt comment too funny)…shucks, Mark, like your work, so try to check your site often,lower case fine, nobody special…….

Martha Burke

April 6th, 2011
2:23 pm

Enter your comments here

cattledawg

April 6th, 2011
2:23 pm

Sunday at Augusta National is the best sporting event Ive attended.

Danny Noonan

April 6th, 2011
2:26 pm

For how many years will I have to read this story? Augusta National members are old and white? So are most of the members at every private club in America. Please try to find something interesting to write about. Perhaps the golfers playing in the tournament are worthy of a few column inches.

KornDawg

April 6th, 2011
2:31 pm

You said exactly what I’ve been thinking, PMC. As a resident of the CSRA (the Augusta area) I appreciate the fact that there is a world class sporting event that takes place here every year. It’s nice to see the National “loosen the reins” so to speak, by allowing the video game and opening up the possibility of actually getting tickets in the future. It’s a great experience to actually attend the Masters and it seems like the National is trying to allow more of the public to have the experience. And regarding the Martha Burke situation, I enjoyed the year when there were no commercials during the tournament. You gotta love when a golf club can say “We don’t need any sponsors to hold our tournament, so your little boycott won’t get us to change.”

teamguy

April 6th, 2011
2:45 pm

Should the members of Augusta National ever want to raise a couple of billion dollars right quick, they could hold a national lottery for a chance to actually play the course. .say for twenty bucks a pop. I’d sign up for five of them without even thinking about it. (sorry, just trying to put a bug in Billy’s ear).

TommyJack

April 6th, 2011
2:45 pm

Been over there many times. Don’t mind how they run it. Most objectors are PC freaks.

juvenal

April 6th, 2011
2:45 pm

besides, isn’t golf mostly played by rich white guys?

gdawginkalamazoo

April 6th, 2011
2:52 pm

Regarding that confrantation with Martha Burke, when asked about it years later I believe he just used the word, “WINNING!”.

Cluett Peabody

April 6th, 2011
3:02 pm

PMC – I think you mean you could “not” care less.

JB

April 6th, 2011
3:17 pm

I live in Augusta….I wish they would do ONE thing. In the fall, say the second week of October when the oppressive Augusta heat starts to fade, Have a Masters for the Champions Tour. It would be great.

Masters

April 6th, 2011
3:24 pm

2nd PMC’s comments! I feel that they have done a great job of allowing more & more of the club and traditions to be seen than ever before in recent years. From broadcasting the par-3 & early rounds on ESPN, to broadcasting LIVE portions of the tournament from Amen Corner, etc. on their (extremely high tech and cutting edge) website, they have done more to allow more access to the tournament worldwide than ever before.

Bradley, you forgot to mention that it’s going to be one of the first few sporting events to be broadcast in HD from 10 different cameras around the course. Also, DirecTV has like 8 different feeds from the Masters all on a series of channels this year, which will allow you to watch a grouping in it’s entirety through a few different holes. Really cutting-edge stuff for stodgy old Augusta (but nothing beats the pimento cheese).

Mark Bradley`s Booster

April 6th, 2011
3:26 pm

Mark: Does the Agusta National Golf Club not have the right to run its organization just like any other private
club does? Example: My wife belongs to the all female Red Hats Club. The would never let me or any other male become a member. This is just one of thousands of examples that exist all over the USA.
The fact that Agusta National sponsors the Masters as a yearly separate entity has no connection with how they run their private club. The tournament just happens to be on the same golf course that is open only for the members and guest of the private Agusta National Golf Club under certain conditions. Why do you believe there is justification for anyone to criticize what they do as a private club?

Obama=Feces

April 6th, 2011
3:38 pm

If I had any say at Augusta National, which I don’t, Condoleezza Rice would definitely be a Member there.

I L-O-V-E that gal!

Yum!

JB

April 6th, 2011
3:42 pm

How bout Snookie from Jersey?

gdawginkalamazoo

April 6th, 2011
3:44 pm

Hey, MB’s Booster,

“Why do you believe there is justification for anyone to criticize what they do as a private club?”

IMO, NO. And if somebody doesn’t like it the they don’t have to join the club or go to the golf tourney. Or watch the golf tourney or buy products from the companies that sponsor said golf tourney.

Curious George

April 6th, 2011
3:47 pm

Since Cam Newton is going to be drafted #1 by Carolina, combined with the new Masters Application and online immersion experience, does this mean Cam will be now able to follow Tiger Woods and all the Masters action this year on his new stolen laptop?

Did You Really Mean That?

April 6th, 2011
3:56 pm

ANGC surely don’t have to justify why it does what it does to a pot-shooting journalist who brings up perceived shortcomings like so many other pot-shooting journalists. MB would give a ‘nad to be able to be a member, along with the other good ole boys – and so would I.

John

April 6th, 2011
3:58 pm

I see nothing wrong with any group forming a club or association with whom they please. For that matter, I would not want to be a member where I was not wanted and have too much to do to spend my life “forcing” my way in just to try and make a point. To those that do; “get a life.”

Dumbo

April 6th, 2011
4:14 pm

I’ve walk many a round on Monday & Tuesday’s at Augusta National in my life…still best prices for food & drink of any sporting event today and a pretty place to get a little exercise.

Snake Doc

April 6th, 2011
5:01 pm

Bradley – You are a gigantic doofus – Mentioning Augusta National and Lady GooGoo in the same sentence. With just that thought alone that you put on paper, McCord should be reinstated and you should not be allowed within a hundred miles of Augusta! I hope Billy Payne bans you for life!

Snake Doc

April 6th, 2011
5:06 pm

Geez Bradley – After reading this entire article I guess thats one minute of my life I’ll never get back. What a waste of Internet bandwidth and server space. You should be fired for wasting the publics time like this. What slow day at the watering hole for ya? You just felt you had to come up with a story for the dumb masses? This article is something so stupid it’ll make people wonder why you even have a job while so many others are out of work and suffering.

Do us all a favor and just quit!

Robert Silverberg

April 6th, 2011
5:29 pm

I prefer The World Inside.

Dunwoodian

April 6th, 2011
5:36 pm

Mark,

Well said. I often thought this as I have watched the tournament throughout the years. Think of the college bowls, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,FedEx Orange Bowl, and on and on. I can’t tell you who advertised during Monday’s NCAA championship, but remember Citigroup, Cadillac, and IBM are the sole sponsor’s every few years at the Masters. I’m not in marketing, but think they might be on to something with this approach. 54 minutes every hour of golf makes it so enjoyable, and although I’ve never attended a round, I have heard from from friends it is refreshing the lack of commercialization of the event.
As for the the color/age/wealth of Augusta’s members, who cares.
Good weekend ahead!

Mark Bradley should be ashamed

April 6th, 2011
5:48 pm

Race should not matter either way. It is a club, and clubs can be exclusive. Bradley you ought to have more respect for such an event in our area. These men are from all over the world, and they bring a LOT of money into the Augusta area. It doesn’t matter who runs the event be it black white yellow red blue orange. Tradition is king in Augusta, and here’s hoping Mr. Payne rejects your press pass next year for these disparaging remarks. Bradley you should have more couth!

Buckeye

April 6th, 2011
5:49 pm

Sunday, around 7PM, is one of the bittersweet moments of the entire year, hearing the theme song for the last time on the CBS broadcast and realizing it’s over for another year.

I

Pago Pago DAWG

April 6th, 2011
6:40 pm

Haven’t you noticed that in commercials the idiot is always a white male..think about it. Pay attention ..

bob

April 6th, 2011
6:47 pm

Bradley, obviously you have never reached a par five in two. Until you do, stay away from golf and write about something with which you have some familiarity. All kidding aside, The Masters is simply the best sports viewing experience there is. If the exceptional quality of the event is attributable to the fact the membership is predominately old and white, then we need old white guys running more sporting events. Got to go. Have to warm up my recliner for the four best days of the year.

Mel from Atlanta

April 6th, 2011
6:57 pm

UGA grads are generally the leaders of important matters.

dawg4u

April 6th, 2011
7:08 pm

Come on Mark you have to admit that it would be cool to stride into the Butler cabin wearing the green Master’s champion jacket while sipping a mint julip and admiring the azaleas and dogwoods.

dawg4u

April 6th, 2011
7:09 pm

That’s julep not julip!

Worm

April 6th, 2011
7:10 pm

C’mon Mark..Lexington, KY is one of the most racist towns I’ve ever been..I’ve not seen many blacks at Keeneland, other than stable hands.

big jake

April 6th, 2011
7:11 pm

Ok Uncle bradley, whats next go to a tea party event with Joe Lowery and John lewis and swear they made you ride on the back of the bus. Are you missing Terrance?

Cuz

April 6th, 2011
11:30 pm

I went to my first Masters in 1963. I was three and a half. The half was important back then. I got to meet Sam Snead. And go in the players locker room. My Dad was the AP photographer. I had a Coke with Byron Nelson under the Oak behind the Clubhouse when I was twelve. We talked for at least twenty minutes. I was on 16 in 1986 when Jack eagled 15 and dropped his shot within a foot of the cup at 16. I could only get fifty yards away when he sank the putt on 17 where he raised the putter for the famous picture, but I was front center. I ran up to 18 and he hit his final drive 15 feet away from where I stood.

I could go on and on, but I worked 16 hours today making money off this tournament and I got at least another 14 Thursday. Springtime in Augusta. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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BobDawg

April 7th, 2011
7:51 am

I’m actually from “Southern New Jersey” – home of the infamous Pine Valley Golf Club which has been the #1 ranked golf club (mostly) for the past 20 years. After 9/11 hit, the club offered rounds for $1000 each and all the proceeds went to the Firefighters fund and others… club did this for 2 weeks solid and was booked solid… Clubs like Pine Valley and Augusta do great works, just not advertised….

Floyd

April 7th, 2011
8:23 am

The fact people would be shocked that Billy Payne – or any members at The National, for that matter – would understand how to “keep the tournament on the cutting edge” says more about them than it does Augusta National. Members, by and large, are some of the most successful business men on the planet. Why should it be shocking that they’d know how to run a world class golf tournament? The Masters is the best sporting event in the world BECAUSE of its members…to hear some people tell it, you’d think the whole thing just magically happens all by itself, despite the best efforts of a bunch of crochety old rich white men to keep it in the stone ages. Not hardly.

dtanner

April 7th, 2011
8:31 am

great white shark,tellit like it is brother!

tiger woods

April 7th, 2011
8:35 am

i think i’ll take fuzzy zoellers advice and go git me some fried chicken and watermelon

Mitch Hedberg

April 7th, 2011
8:58 am

Speaking of Clubs….. I ordered a Club sandwich and I’m not even a member…….

Pago Pago Dawg

April 7th, 2011
9:13 am

worm; we go to Keeneland twice a year and the entrance is always open to everybody, not sure what you’re talking about??