The Eisenhower Tree suffered major damage in an ice storm and was removed over the weekend, the club confirmed Sunday.
Photos showed major limb damage, particularly on the left side and top of the tree.
“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” Augusta National and Masters Chairman Billy Payne said in a prepared statement. “We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.”
The Masters landmark, also known as Ike’s Tree, was about 210 yards from the tee on the left side of the par-4 hole. The loblolly pine stood 65 feet high and was believed to be 100 to 125 years old.
The tree was named because the former president and Augusta National member often hit into it, and at a club meeting in 1956 he proposed cutting it down. Masters co-founder Clifford Roberts ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting, and the tree has been linked to Eisenhower ever since.
“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.
Sleet and freezing rain began pelting the Augusta area Tuesday night and continued throughout Wednesday, and photos of Magnolia Lane showed several limbs and branches down as nearly an inch of ice accumulated.
Payne said that Augusta National’s layout did not receive any other major damage, and is open for member play.
Six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus issued a statement Sunday about the loss of the tree.
“The Eisenhower Tree is such an iconic fixture and symbol of tradition at Augusta National,” he said. “It was such an integral part of the game and one that will be sorely missed … 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.”
Ike’s Tree isn’t the only notable landmark created by Mother Nature at Augusta National.
The magnolia trees that line the club’s famous entrance date to the late 1850s, as does the “big oak tree” behind the clubhouse. It’s a popular gathering spot during Masters Week for players, officials and club members.
Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters, released a statement Sunday:
“Like so many of our family, friends and neighbors in this community, Augusta National Golf Club has been busy cleaning up after the historic ice storm last week. Everyone affected remains in our hearts and prayers, and we likewise hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all.
“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept. We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.
“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.
“I can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for Member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters Tournament.”
VIGNETTES ABOUT IKE’S TREE
1973 Masters champion Tommy Aaron had a memorable encounter with the tree one year.
Here’s Aaron’s story:
“I hit a drive there, and it hit in top of the Eisenhower pine and pollen went everywhere. And nobody moved. So I said, ‘That ball stayed in the tree.’ The local caddie with us said they don’t stay in the tree. And I said, ‘That ball stayed in the tree.’
So we couldn’t find it. We looked around, and I go back and I play another under the lost ball rule. And the next day we’re walking by the tree and a ball drops out of the tree, and I know it’s my ball because it had a marking on it and it was a Pinnacle.
“So I know it was my ball. Someone told Jack Nicklaus that story and he said, ‘I’m not sure I believe it.’
But I’ve got a witness, my caddie, Rhett Sinclair.”
Tiger Woods, a four-time Masters winner, was sidelined for much of 2011 by injuries to his left knee and left Achilles tendon. He suffered those injuries while squatting to hit a shot under the Eisenhower Tree on the 17th hole in the third round of the Masters.
His left foot got caught in the pine straw as the momentum of the swing carried him backward, he said. Woods’ shot wound up in the front bunker and he saved par,
Woods held a share of the lead in the final round and finished tied for fourth.