The Life and Legacy of Billy Payne

As the induction of former Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne into the World Golf Hall of Fame draws nearer, Essential Golf takes a look at the life and career of the man who was instrumental in bringing the Olympic Games to Atlanta.

Full name: William Porter Payne

Born: October 13, 1947

Hometown: Athens, Georgia

Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club: 2006-2017

Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame: 2019

The Life and Legacy of Billy Payne
William Porter “Billy” Payne, 1994
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Jim Accordino


In May of 2006, Billy Payne was announced chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, replacing Hootie Johsnon at one of the most prestigious clubs and majors in the world. Payne’s chairmanship ran from 2006 through to 2017 and marked 11 years of significant achievements.

Perhaps the most notable achievement was the introduction of female members into the Augusta National Golf Club’s membership. Following the 2012 Masters Tournament, Payne announced that the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore would be the first female members of the club after a notorious 75-year all male membership.

Payne continued to confront the club’s strict tradition-laden ways, establishing contemporary modifications and collaborating with EA Sports to feature Augusta National in a video game. “’Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters’ will inspire the next generation of golfers,” he said.

Indeed, Payne originated the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship with the USGA and PGA of America, a free nationwide initiative that provides aspiring junior golfers with the opportunity to play in qualifiers and competitions around the country.

He also established the Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur tournaments, each offering guaranteed Masters’ spots to the winners.

Payne is further celebrated for receiving the Olympic Order at the Closing Ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, and was named the GWAA’s William D. Richardson Award recipient.

He first had the idea of Atlanta hosting the Games in 1987 and was committed to gaining the support of Atlanta leaders, surprising many when he succeeded.

Payne served as president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games from 1992 to 1996 and continued his legacy by being a key figure in the successful return of golf to the 2016 Games.

Payne’s Olympic and Masters success will see him honored at the World Golf Hall of Fame Ceremony on June 10, 2019 in Pebble Beach—the week of the men’s U.S Open Championship.

Personal achievements

Before he became one of the most recognised men of Atlanta, Payne was known for following in his father’s footsteps as a star quarterback for the University of Georgia. Payne graduated from UGA with a political science degree in 1969 and with a law degree in 1973. He played for the UGA Bulldogs from 1966 to 1968.

UGA has recently announced that it will name its new indoor athletic facility after the Paynes, securing naming rights for the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. More than $10 million in donations from friends and family of Billy and Porter Payne funded the naming of the building.

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