Former Augusta National chairman William “Hootie” Johnson is dead. He was 86.
His passing was confirmed in a statement by current chairman, Billy Payne.
Johnson’s chairmanship at the world’s most famous club commenced on May 1, 1998, and ran for just over eight years before he stepped down in 2006.
“At all times, Hootie selflessly served as my personal mentor on matters here at Augusta National and the Masters, as well as in business and life,” Payne said in the statement. “He impressed upon me his obsession for constant improvement and a love for Augusta National that will forever remain unmatched.”
Augusta National made many changes to the course under Johnson’s tenure, including lengthening the course and adding trees, in an effort to protect the layout from the prodigious distances modern players drive the ball.
Johnson’s reign was also defined by his public response to criticism the club received for—at that time—maintaining an all-male membership. Martha Burk, former Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, pressed Johnson about whether or not the club would budge on the issue, to which Johnson famously responded not at “the point of a bayonet.”
Payne said the club would “will privately honor the memory” of Johnson in the coming days and “celebrate his extraordinary life.”