"I wanted to get these statues up in time for the Masters," museum Director Nancy Glaser said.
The larger-than-life bronze statues, all but one commissioned by local sponsors for display at the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, have remained in storage since September 2007, when the golf hall ran out of money.
Costing an average of $100,000 and weighing between 700 and 1,200 pounds each, the statues were hoisted by forklift into a truck and driven slowly to the museum, where they were lifted out and turned upright onto pedestals in the museum's rotunda.
The statues of Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Ray Floyd will return to public view Friday along with the opening of a permanent golf exhibit. The museum, which has had to reduce its hours in a tight budget year, funded the exhibit through grants and donations, including a $4,000 gift from Bank of America for the cost of installing the statues, Glaser said.
The museum has a temporary agreement with the golf hall to display the statues through June 30 and is seeking a 15-year arrangement with the statues' owner to house them, she said.
That long-term lease will be with whatever state agency takes over when the golf hall dissolves. But Glaser doesn't expect the weighty statues to move.
Rep. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, who introduced a bill last month transferring the statues and the golf hall's 17 acres to Augusta for $1, said he expects somewhat different legislation to be signed.
"For Augusta's purposes, our goal is to move swiftly in getting the hall of fame abolished and have all real and personal property transferred over, and that includes the statues," he said.
The city will pay fair market value for the property, Davis said.
The market price will reflect both the $2 million the state still owes on the golf hall land and the "significant community investment" that Augusta has made toward the golf hall, he said.