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Ice storm claims Augusta National landmark

By Steve Hummer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:59 PM

Somewhere Dwight Eisenhower is smiling.

That infernal loblolly pine off the 17th fairway at Augusta National, the one with such an appetite for Eisenhower’s tee ball, the one whose very name paid lasting tribute to a presidential pull hook, is sawdust.

What Ike couldn’t do over nearly two terms in office, the ice did overnight.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne announced Sunday that the iconic Eisenhower Tree was felled, a victim of last week’s ice storm.

The story goes that Eisenhower, an Augusta National member from 1948 to his death in 1969, was so vexed by the tree that he petitioned during a 1956 members’ meeting to have it removed. Then chairman Clifford Roberts ruled the war hero and sitting president out of order and abruptly adjourned the gathering. This was no democracy; this was Roberts’ Augusta National.

Rather than succumb to pressure from the highest office, the tree quickly gained status as one of the club’s many landmarks. It bore Eisenhower’s name to the end.

Sitting just 210 yards downrange of the 17th tee, just to the left of the fairway, the tree did not nettle the talented Masters field nearly as much as the less long and skilled club membership. It was more a quaint testament to the frustrations of the game that played no favorites.

In Sunday’s statement, Payne said so many limbs of the century-old pine were sheered by the accumulation of ice that there was no saving it despite the efforts of the best arborists.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” the chairman said in his statement.

What will stand in its place has not yet been determined.

“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history — rest assured, we will do both appropriately,” Payne said.

Damage around the rest of Augusta National was minimal, Payne said, doing nothing to interfere with preparations for April’s Masters. The course is currently open for membership play, only featuring a little more breathing room on the penultimate hole.

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