Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands


This former Augusta National chairman got serious screen time at the National Championship for an obvious reason

Late in the fourth quarter of Monday night's National Championship game between Georgia and Alabama, golf fans caught a quick glimpse of a very familiar face as ESPN cameras panned over a luxury box at Lucas Oil Stadium. The cameras were attempting to captured the reaction of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, who, prior to last night, was the last Bulldogs' last head coach to win a national title.

But the camera was drawn to another face, at least for golf fans who got up off the couch to get a closer look. It was the face of former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who was looking on intently after the Dawgs took a 26-18 lead with three minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the game. 

What was Payne doing in Dooley's box? Well, the 74-year-old didn't just go to Georgia as a student, he was a wide receiver and defensive end for the Bulldogs football team, playing under Dooley between 1966 and 1968. As a sophomore, Payne led the team in receptions, and he hauled in a touchdown pass in the team's 24-9 victory in the 1966 Cotton Bowl. Two years later, Payne switched to defensive end for his senior season, and the Bulldogs went 8-1-2, winning the SEC title and eventually losing to Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. That year, Payne earned All-SEC and All-America honors, and was named the school's most outstanding athlete. 

Twelve years later, with Dooley still at the helm, the Dawgs won the school's second national title, beating Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl. On Monday night, 41 years later, the legendary coach and his former player got to take in their Alma Mater's third national title, this one over almighty Alabama, 33-18. 

Life is good, indeed. During the postgame celebration, Payne could even be seen embracing current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who will undoubtedly be teeing it up at Augusta National in the near future, if he hasn't already.