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Augusta National's 'Eisenhower Tree' Irreparably Damaged by Georgia Storms
An important part of Augusta National Golf Club's lore is no more. The Eisenhower Tree, named after former club member and the 34th president of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, was removed over the weekend because of damage caused by an ice storm.
Perhaps appropriately, the club announced the removal of the tree along the 17th hole on Sunday, the day before Presidents Day.
"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept," club chairman Billy Payne said. "We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible."
The 2014 Masters - golf's first major championship of the year - is slated to begin in two months. Fortunately, Payne said the course did not receive other significant damage as a result of the recent storms that have wracked the Southeast.
The Eisenhower Tree was a loblolly pine that sat about 210 yards along the left of the dogleg-left 17th fairway. It was an important part of the par-4 as players either had to hit over it or shape their tee shots around it.
The 65-foot-tall pine was named after President Eisenhower, a club member from 1948 until his death in 1969. Eisenhower became so mad at repeatedly hitting the tree that he campaigned to have it removed. In 1956, while in his first presidential term, "Ike" proposed during an Augusta National governors' meeting that it be cut down.
Clifford Roberts, the club chairman and co-founder, famously overruled the American president and World War II war hero, and adjourned the meeting. The pine has been known as Eisenhower's Tree ever since.
"The Eisenhower Tree is such an iconic fixture and symbol of tradition at Augusta National," said Jack Nicklaus, a six-time green jacket winner and Augusta National member. "It was such an integral part of the game and one that will be sorely missed.
"Over the years, it's come into play many, many times on the 17th hole. When I stood on the 17th tee, my first thought, always, was to stay away from Ike's Tree. Period. I hit it so many times over the years that I don't care to comment on the names I called myself and the names I might have called the tree. Ike's Tree was a kind choice. But looking back, Ike's Tree will be greatly missed."
One player wasn't unhappy to see the century-old tree go. "Did it get in my way?" two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange asked. "It was like George Brett at third base for me. It caught more line drives from me than I'm allowed to admit. That doesn't hurt my feelings."
David Duval contended four times for a green jacket and was shocked to hear of the tree's demise. "Are you kidding me? That's terrible," the 13-time PGA Tour winner said. "That tree made you really pay attention to where you were driving it. It made for a very narrow tee shot. You either had to go up over it or around it."
It's possible Augusta National will replace the strategically placed tree, but that's unlikely to happen before the Masters starts in April. "We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to his iconic symbol of our history," Payne noted. "Rest assured, we will do both appropriately."
After winning the Northern Trust Open on Sunday at Riviera Country Club for his first title since his 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson said of the Eisenhower Tree: "Let's be honest - that tree was never in my way," the long-hitting lefty said.
"I don't know what they're going to do. They never ask me. But I would think they're probably going to plant something there."