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Billy Payne Steps Down As Augusta Masters Chairman After 11 Years, Replaced By Fred Ridley Full view

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 06: Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club William Porter 'Billy' Payne takes part in the first tee ceremony prior to the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Billy Payne Steps Down As Augusta Masters Chairman After 11 Years, Replaced By Fred Ridley

William Porter “Billy” Payne stepped down as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament on Wednesday.

Billy Payne retirement news

Payne, 69, was named chairman in 2006 and presided over 11 Masters Tournaments. During that time, he oversaw multimillion-dollar land acquisitions to improve hospitality, introduced multiple initiatives to develop the game of golf, and witnessed Augusta National admit women as members for the first time.

Fred Ridley — a former U.S. Golf Association president who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur — will replace Payne on Oct. 16, three days after Payne’s 70th birthday. Payne will then become 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 statement. “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.

“I am now proud to call upon my good friend Fred Ridley to lead Augusta National and the Masters to a future that I am confident will hold new promise, while always being faithful to the principles of Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. Fred will be an excellent Chairman who will serve with my complete and enthusiastic support.”

One of Payne’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure as chairman was the welcoming former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore as Augusta’s first female members in 2012 and then Virginia Rometty in 2014.

Payne also oversaw the launch of three major competitions: the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the Latin America Amateur Championship and the Drive, Chip & Putt Contest that is held annually on the Sunday prior to the Masters at Augusta.

Before he became chairman, Payne — an Augusta National member since 1997 — helped bring the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta and was named head of the Atlanta Olympic Committee.

Payne also helped set up a new Masters Tournament television contract with ESPN in 2007 and brought on Rolex and Mercedes-Benz as the first two global sponsors to support Masters telecasts and golf development programs outside the U.S.

Six-time Masters champion and Augusta member Jack Nicklaus posted a tribute to Payne on his website Wednesday.

“Billy has been a strong leader and an innovative thinker, and I believe Augusta National, Masters Tournament patrons and the world of golf all have, in some way, benefitted from his brilliance,” Nicklaus’ statement read.

Nicklaus also praised the choice of Ridley as a successor, saying he felt confident that Ridley would be able to successfully continue Payne’s legacy.

In July, it was announced that Augusta National had completed a land purchase agreement with neighboring Augusta Country Club that would grant the golf club greater space around its perimeter in addition to permitting a potential elongation of the par-5 13th hole.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Billy Payne during his tenure as Chairman,” ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement. “He has wonderfully maintained the pre-eminence of the world’s greatest golf tournament while innovating effectively in digital media and expanding the footprint of the tournament, the club and the game of golf both literally and figuratively in Augusta and throughout the world. I wish him well-earned satisfaction in his accomplishments and pleasure in his deserved retirement.

“Billy’s last accomplishment was leaving the club in the capable hands of Fred Ridley. We look forward to working with Fred for many years.”

Ridley, 65, is a former University of Florida golfer never turned pro and is a lawyer based in Tampa, Florida. However, Ridley is the first Augusta chairman to have played in the Masters. He participated in the tournament three times (1976-78) and also served several different roles with the USGA, including as president from 2004 to 2005.

Ridley has also been a member of the Masters rules and competitions committee.

AUGUSTA, GA – APRIL 06: Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club William Porter ‘Billy’ Payne takes part in the first tee ceremony prior to the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Written by Pablo Mena