Date: Jan. 10, 2009
To: Members of Augusta National Golf Club
From: R. Worthington Read, Chairman
As most of you know, thanks to the catastrophic stock market crash 11 years ago, we have been under considerable strain these past few years to meet the $10 million purse that Commissioner Leadbetter now insists upon. Toward this end, the tournament committee is entertaining an interesting offer from Mr. Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox Network, as you know, has been televising our tournament ever since our acrimonious parting with CBS.
Before presenting the Murdoch offer, a little background might be helpful to you newer members. In 2003, when we were first pressed for money, Ted Turner came to us with what we at first thought was an appalling proposition. It seems that he and Governor Fonda were looking to build a vacation home in Augusta. During a visit to the 1998 Masters, the Turners fell in love with the property just south of our clubhouse hot tubs on which our nine-hole par-3 course was laid out. Mr. Turner asked for a meeting with our directors, and as one of them, I was in attendance. Held in what is now the Tiger Woods Trophy Room, the discussion went as follows.
Mr. Turner got straight to the point. "I would like to buy your nine-hole par-3 course and am willing to offer you $20 million," he said.
There was a lengthy silence. Finally Ray Billingham, then Chairman, spoke up. " Mr. Turner," he said, "I am afraid you are unaware of the many traditions of the Masters, one of which is the beloved par-3 event held on the Wednesday afternoon prior to the start of the tournament itself. We could never do without it."
"I'll make it $50 million."
" Mr. Turner, at the risk of insulting you, you fail to understand that we at Augusta National are a proud group. In spite of all sorts of enticements, we have remained free from the encroachments of commercialism that, sadly, have afflicted the rest of golf, witness the Burger King U.S. Open and the Revlon Ryder Cup. When you stand on our veranda during the tournament and gaze out at the green expanse of our course, you see nothing that smacks of an advertisement. We at Augusta National are above that sort of thing."
"How about $100 million?"
"Ted," said Billingham, "you've got yourself a deal."
It was heart-wrenching, of course, to see the bulldozers plow up all those dogwoods and azaleas as Turner's 80-room cottage went up and Ike's Pond was transformed into the Governor's lap pool, but as you know, there was an upside. Three holes were spared, and Ted was kind enough to let our contestants play the par-3 event as usual, with each circling the abbreviated course three times. I'm sure our patrons have enjoyed watching Ted and his friends play in the pro-am portion of the par-3 before all the competitors head on to the popular Wednesday-night barbecue that Ted holds on the practice putting green.