News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 8, 2009
AUGUSTA---There's always a lot of anticipation about what the Augusta National chairman will say at his traditional Par 3 Wednesday news conference. This year, for the first time in a long time, Chairman Billy Payne did not mention a need to add length to any of the famous fairways.
"Is Augusta National finally as long as it needs to be?" we asked.
"I won't be chairman when that decision is ultimately made, I think. We took ten yards off this year," Payne answered. He was referring to the area around the first tee, where the hole was shortened to give patrons a little more room to walk.
"You know, I think we have it about right," Payne said.
The biggest construction project at the National isn't even on the golf course. It's out in the main parking lot.
Most places, progress means getting rid of green space. Here at Augusta National it's just the opposite.
By this time next year, a fence and parking lot will be gone to make way for a lush fairway, a state-of-the-art practice facility just for the pros, and just for Masters Week.
There was one more resounding message from the Augusta National chairman: they are listening, on the course and online.
"Our on-course responses contained scores of good ideas," Payne said, referring to the comment cards available to Masters patrons. "We listened and as a direct consequence, this year we introduced new concession stands in all five on-course locations."
"We listened," Payne continued, "and smoking will no longer be permitted in any patron stand or designated seating area on the course. And in response to literally hundreds of comments we had, I'm proud to say that our barbecue sandwiches so popular on the course are now being served heated."