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  • Billy Payne for World Golf Hall of Fame


    (ATR) He came up with the idea to host the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But it is his post-Olympic life as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club that has earned Billy Payne a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
    Billy Payne stepped down as chair of Augusta in 2017. (ATR)

    Payne will be inducted as a member of the HOF for 2019 in a ceremony near Pebble Beach, scene of the U.S. Open later this week. Joining with Payne are Peggy Kirk Bell, Retief Goosen, Jan Stephenson and Dennis Walters.

    Now 71, Payne was nominated in the Lifetime Achievement category for his work at Augusta during the 11 years he was chairman of one of the world’s best known golf clubs. He stepped down as chair two years ago.

    The nomination cites his involvement in originating the Drive, Chip and Putt for young golfers ahead of the Masters, establishing the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur Championships, each offering guaranteed Masters’ invitations to the winner.

    While chair of Augusta
    The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla. (WGHOF)
    he welcomed the first women into the membership.

    Payne’s support of Olympic golf is also mentioned in the HOF nomination. The sport returned to the Olympic program in 2016, which Payne endorsed. His support for Olympic golf dates back to the Atlanta Olympics,  As CEO of ACOG in 1992, Payne managed to convince Augusta’s chieftains to go along with a plan to hold golf in the 1996 Olympics.

    But the proposal wasn’t welcomed by the IOC, which was unhappy hearing about the proposal after Payne held a press conference at Augusta. The IOC also was uncomfortable with the controversy that erupted over the exclusion of blacks and women from the membership, bans that have since been stricken. The idea of golf at the '96 Games was quietly dropped a few months later, 

    Here’s a video produced by the World Golf Hall of Fame for Payne’s nomination.

    Originally created in Pinehurst, N.C., the World Golf Hall of Fame relocated to St. Augustine, Fla. in 1998. The facility and its programs are a project of the PGA of America.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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