AUGUSTA, Ga. — For anyone curious if the Masters might ever relax its rule prohibiting cell phones during the tournament, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne made it fairly clear the club’s once and future policy position.
“You’ll have to ask the next chairman,” Payne said during his annual Wednesday press conference. “That’s not going to change while I’m chairman. … I just don’t think it’s appropriate, and the noise is an irritation to not only players, the dialing, the conversation, it’s a distraction and that's the way we’ve chosen to deal with it.”
Payne met with the media for 30 minutes, addressing a variety of subjects. He opened by speaking about the loss of Arnold Palmer, noting that the the tournament would honor The King on Thursday morning by providing patrons special commemorative “Arnie’s Army” buttons.
“Arnold Palmer let us all into his life; not from the distance that is typically maintained between a superstar and a fan, but into his life, close‑up, so that we could literally push him to greatness and regale in his accomplishments as though they were our own,” Payne said. “I think tomorrow will no doubt be an emotional goodbye, but at the same time, an even more powerful thank you to the man we dearly love.”
Among the other notable comments from Payne’s press conference:
On the need for continued improvement at Augusta National: “People always ask us why we continue to improve our campus and our facilities, which are already considered by some as without peer in the sporting world. Honestly, the answer is pretty simple In the same manner that we all inherited this wonderful Club and tournament, so, too, did our beloved founders, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, condition that inheritance on our collective adoption of the principle of constant improvement. We simply know no other way.” On the importance of the media: “We are fully aware that over the decades, the magic of your words, the pictures literally painted by your compelling narratives are largely responsible for the universal reverence and appeal of the Masters.” On upcoming changes to the course: “None to announce now that have been put on a permanent schedule. It's fair to say, as is always the case, we are always looking at certain holes, certain other improvements to the golf course, and we talked about some of those, and I think they are all pretty obvious. We have a great opportunity now in that we now own the old Berckmans Road. It gives us the ability, as it touches certain holes, it gives us some way to expand or re‑design—not re‑design—but lengthen some of those holes, should we choose to do so, and all of them are under review.”
RELATED: 9 sneaky Masters picks On the possibility of implementing an alternative ball at the Masters: “[The USGA and R&A] are working together to ensure that it does not become a problem, and as is always the case, we have great confidence in their ability to forge a solution. But of course, as you would imagine, we always reserve the right to do whatever we have to do to preserve the integrity of our golf course. But I don’t think that will ever happen.” On the health of the game: “First of all, I think golf as a sport is in better shape than some people write about. The reason I say that is there are a lot of those are measuring the business of golf. Well, some people are not good businessmen and women. You know, they make mistakes. They don’t build the courses properly; they overextend. So some of these closings have to do with the business of golf more so than the fact that people don’t want to play golf. … So what we have chosen to do and hope to do, and I’ve said many times, is that we are blessed with significant resources and significant gratitude for the position that we all find ourselves in and we are willing to commit those resources to help grow the game, and we can always do better, and we will do better.”