William Porter “Billy” Payne announced on Wednesday that he is retiring from his position as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club effective Oct. 16, which is the beginning of the club’s season.
Fred Ridley will take Payne’s place as chairman. Ridley previously served as the chairman of the competition committees for the Masters.
Payne, 69, who started his tenure as chairman on May 21, 2006, will have a new title as chairman emeritus.
“The privilege I experienced serving as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters was far greater than I could have ever imagined,” Payne said in a release. “Just as nothing can prepare you for the unique responsibilities and important decisions that come with this position, it is equally impossible to anticipate the many joys and, most importantly, the wonderful friendships that are the ultimate reward of service. This honor, however, is too great for one person to claim as their own for too long a period of time. I retire knowing it is simply the right thing to do – and at the right moment – to open the door and invite someone new to be called upon to lead, bring forth new ideas and craft a new vision that will honor our founders and serve the game of golf for many years to come.”
Payne might be best remembered for being at the helm when the club first admitted women members, a previous omission for which it was heavily scrutinized. In 2012 Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore became the first female members of the storied club.
During his tenure, Payne was behind the Masters’ new TV contract with ESPN in 2008 — which broadcast and elevated the Masters Par-3 Contest — and was also an integral part of getting the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which began in 2009, and the Latin America Amateur Championship (2015) off the ground. The winners of both events now receive Masters invites.
In 2013 the Masters partnered with the USGA and PGA of America to launch the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, a developmental and grow-the-game initiative that brings top qualifiers to Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters.
Payne is also the chairman of the Atlanta-based Centennial Holding Company, which specializes in real estate investment. He campaigned hard for Atlanta to land the 1996 Olympics, and when it did he served as president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Ridley will become the club’s seventh chairman, joining a group comprised of co-founder Clifford Roberts (1933-77), Bill Lane (1977-80), Hord Hardin (1980-91), Jack Stephens (1991-98), Hootie Johnson (1998-2006) and Payne.