William Porter “Billy” Payne is the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, having served in that position since 2006 and overseen the introduction of the first women to the club’s membership rolls. He is also a Chairman of Centennial Holding Company, an Atlanta-based real estate investment concern. Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a leading advocate for bringing the Olympic Games to Atlanta and, in 1996, Payne was named president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG).
Born in Athens, Georgia, Payne received his Bachelor of Arts with honors in political science in 1969 from the University of Georgia as well as his law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1973. While at the University, he was initiated into the Gridiron Secret Society and the Georgia Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.
Payne first had the idea of Atlanta hosting the Olympic Games in 1987 and began to bring others to support this vision. He first gained support of Atlanta leaders for this effort, including then-mayor Andrew Young, an ally who helped Payne convince International Olympic Committee members to award Atlanta the games. Payne’s plan for the games depended heavily on private support, leading him to convince sponsors to back the games. In September 1990, Atlanta was selected by the IOC to host the 1996 Games, surprising many.
After winning the bid, Payne remained as the head of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, serving as the chief administrator to organize the Olympics. He was the first person to lead the bid effort and then remain to lead the Games.
Tenure as Augusta National chairman
On May 5, 2006, Billy Payne replaced Hootie Johnson as chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament. As chairman, Payne has already made some adjustments at the Masters, including a new television contract with ESPN that allowed for unprecedented coverage of the par-3 tournament, beginning in 2008. Also that same year, a junior-patrons program was instituted, which allows one Augusta National Golf Club-accredited patron the opportunity to personally bring one junior patron (ages: 8-16), free of charge, to each of the four competitive rounds of the Masters. The program is not available on practice round days, and is also unavailable to company patrons.