Augusta loses iconic Eisenhower Tree

2/17/2014 4:56:00 PM
Eisenhower Tree  (EuropeanTour)
Eisenhower Tree (EuropeanTour)

Golf's safest drivers made sure they stayed clear of it but Augusta National's famous Eisenhower Tree, which survived an attempt by the a former US President to have it chopped down, has become a victim of America's ice storms.

President Dwight D. 'Ike' Eisenhower campaigned with club officials during his White House tenure to have the loblolly pine, which stood  waiting to punish a wayward tee shot on the left of the 17th fairway, removed, so rankled was he to find it an obstacle that repeatedly intruded on his rounds.

Eisenhower, rather than tightening up the accuracy of his driving, called for the evergreen to be cut down in 1956, and had his request politely refused, finding that the power he wielded from the Oval Office could not sway his fellow golf club members.

While the president, who died in 1969, had to contain his disdain for the obstacle that blocked his route to the green, for many others it became one of the course's great landmarks, and one which when its demise was announced was subject of a eulogy from Jack Nicklaus.

The tree came down over the weekend, Augusta National said in a statement, having been left in a sorry state by the dramatic weather in the state of Georgia.

Six-time Masters champion Nicklaus said: "The Eisenhower Tree is such an iconic fixture and symbol of tradition at Au-gus-ta National. It was such an integral part of the game and one that will be sorely missed.

"Over the years, it's come into play many, many times on the 17th hole. When I stood on the 17th tee, my first thought, always, was to stay away from Ike's Tree. Period

"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."

While Eisenhower was succeeded in the presidency by John F Kennedy in 1961, there has been no assurance from Augusta that the tree that bore his name will be replaced at all.

The club has no record of when the Eisenhower Tree was planted, but estimated it to be 100 to 125 years old.

Billy Payne, chairman of the Augusta National and the Masters, said in a statement: "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."