R.I.P. Hootie Johnson

The former Augusta National and Masters chairman who oversaw a tumultuous 8-year tenure, has passed away at 86.

The club statement:


Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are today mourning the loss of William Woodward “Hootie” Johnson, our beloved Chairman Emeritus.  Hootie passed away this morning at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional service to our Club, our Tournament and the game of golf.

Hootie was named Chairman of Augusta National on May 1, 1998. During his eight-year tenure, we always admired his genuine and unrelenting respect for the traditions and vision of the Club and Tournament established by our Founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.

He boldly directed numerous course improvements to ensure that Augusta National would always represent the very finest test of golf.  Simultaneously, Hootie expanded television coverage of the Masters, improved qualification standards for invitation to the Tournament and reopened the series badge waiting list for the first time in more than 20 years.  Many of these measures brought more people than ever closer to the Masters and inspired us to continue exploring ways to welcome people all over the world to the Tournament and the game of golf.

Hootie stepped down as Chairman on May 5, 2006, leaving both Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament in exceptional form.  In the years that followed, Hootie was a frequent visitor here, enjoying the rewards of retirement with his wife Pierrine, his four daughters, his sons-in-law and 10 grandchildren, to say nothing of the many friends he made through a rewarding and honorable life.

At all times, Hootie selflessly served as my personal mentor on matters here at Augusta National and the Masters, as well as in business and life.  He impressed upon me his obsession for constant improvement and a love for Augusta National that will forever remain unmatched. As the current Chairman, I owe an immeasurable debt to Hootie Johnson, and I will thank him every day for what he has meant to me personally as well as to the legacy of Augusta National and the Masters.

In the days ahead, we will privately honor the memory of Hootie Johnson, stand with his beautiful family and celebrate his extraordinary life.

Not surprising his AP obituary focuses almost entirely on his feud with Martha Burk.

John Boyette in the Augusta Chronicle notes that Johnson never backed down from a fight and before getting to the Burk battles, points out a few other major initiatives.

Johnson served as Augusta National Golf Club’s chairman from 1998 to 2006, and under his direction the famed Alister Mackenzie-Bobby Jones layout was lengthened to 7,445 yards. During his tenure, 14 of the 18 holes were altered as Augusta National led the charge against advances in golf ball and club technology that threatened to make older courses obsolete.

Johnson also modified the qualifications for invitation to the tournament, initiated 18-hole television coverage and began the practice of announcing the club’s donations to charity.