AUGUSTA, Ga. -- On Wednesday morning, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne weathered a feisty line of questioning from the media over the club’s continued refusal to discuss its all-male membership policy. During the contentious exchange, Payne frustrated reporters and raised the ire of various observers by declining to answer even relatively straightforward questions.
Golf.com was granted exclusive access to the Payne household Thursday morning, and it turns out Payne can be just as evasive at the breakfast table.
BILLY PAYNE: Morning, honey, how’d you sleep?
MARTHA PAYNE, BILLY’S WIFE: Oh, hi, dear, slept like a baby, thanks. Coffee’s brewing. What can I fix you for breakfast?
BILLY: Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of my breakfast preferences are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members, and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement.
MARTHA: Your statement? Babe, I was just asking you what you’d like to eat. Eggs? Granola? Grits? You need member approval to address that?
BILLY: Yes, ma’am, and I'm going to deal with it immediately by turning it over to my expert, Mr. Craig Heatley.
After a clattering of pans, the pantry door flies open. Out walks Craig Heatley, chairman of the media committee.
MARTHA: My, God, Craig! How long have you been in there?
Heatley brushes some flour off his green jacket and straightens his tie.
HEATLEY: Not long enough to forget about that old witch Martha…
He lets the line hang. Martha stews.
HEATLEY: Martha Burk, that is! Martha Burk!
Billy and Heatley erupt with laughter.
BILLY: Listen, thanks for being here, old boy. I’m in a bit of a pinch. Wifey here wants to know what I want for breakfast.
Heatley fidgets; beads of sweat begin streaming down his brow.
BILLY: Craig, you okay?
HEATLEY: Uh, um … sorry, pal, you’re on your own here.
Martha looks on, wide-eyed, dumbfounded.
MARTHA: So, honey -- breakfast. What’s the deal? Why can’t you just spit it out already?
BILLY: I guess two reasons: One, we don't talk about breakfast. No. 2, we especially don't talk about it when specific options -- like eggs and granola -- are part of the question.
MARTHA: William, this is preposterous. We? Why involve the green jackets? It’s your BREAKFAST for God’s sake! Talk to me!
BILLY: Well, I would like to, and I have my own personal ideas. However, I think the task force that we have appointed that is working, I need to let them finish their work before I'm able to articulate the best breakfast ideas to the surface. Although I'm reasonably certain that there will be some good ones, and that we will be able to talk to the USGA and the R&A and the PGA of America and see which of those ideas we can work together -- like, say, French toast and strawberries. Maybe we are a year away from that.
MARTHA: A year!!!??? Billy, I note your concerns about breakfast. But don't you think it would send a wonderful message and perhaps a comforting scent of pancakes through the house if you just told me what you wanted?
BILLY: Once again, that deals with a membership issue, and I'm not going to answer it.
MARTHA: No, it doesn't.
MARTHA: Seems like a mixed message, honey, is what I’m saying. You're throwing a lot of money into all our breakfast options -- fancy muffins, fresh-squeezed juice, lox -- and yet there's still a perception that certain options are excluded.
BILLY: That is a membership issue that I'm not going to … thank you for your --
MARTHA: It sends…
BILLY: Thank you.
Martha’s cheeks redden. She takes a deep breath and composes herself.
MARTHA: William Porter Payne, as a grandfather, what would you say to your granddaughters? How would you explain that you can’t tell your own wife what you’d like for breakfast?
BILLY: Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that's a question that deals with membership, and…
MARTHA: It's a kitchen-table, personal question.
BILLY: Well, my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal.
Billy winks at Heatley; both struggle to contain a chuckle.
MARTHA: Alright, suit yourself, Billy. I’m late for my bridge game. Tell me, do these jeans make me look fat?
BILLY: Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked…