An iconic piece of Masters history has now found a home … in Kansas.
A glass-enclosed cross-section of the Eisenhower Tree — the famous loblolly pine that used to jut out onto the 17th fairway here at Augusta National Golf Club — was presented on Wednesday to the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan.
Masters Tournament Chairman Billy Payne announced the gift during a news conference on Wednesday morning, just 14 months after an ice storm ravaged Augusta National and forced the removal of the tree named for a president.
“(The tree cross-section) will remain here throughout Tournament Week and then make its way to the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, where it will be placed on permanent public display,” Payne said. “A similar and final cross-section will remain here at Augusta National.”
The story of the Eisenhower Tree has become part of Augusta National lore, a landmark that became synonymous with the 17th hole and the finishing stretch of the back nine here at Augusta.
The official version goes like this: Eisenhower, a member at Augusta National, was always hitting his drive into the tree on 17. So in December 1956, Eisenhower stood up at the annual club meeting and demanded the 65-foot pine be cut down and destroyed. Eisenhower was the sitting president, but it didn’t matter. Clifford Roberts, the sitting chairman of Augusta National, listened to the demands of the president.
Then he ignored them.
“Meeting adjourned,” Roberts declared, according to one version of the story.
The loblolly pine — which would soon become known as the Eisenhower Tree — was staying put.
More than 57 years later, a winter storm accomplished something that even a president could not.
Here at Augusta, of course, they clutch to traditions like strands of pearls. When the gates opened this week for another tournament, the pimento cheese sandwiches were still going for $1.50, packaged in the customary green wax paper. The club still holds firm to the idea of calling fans “patrons.” And the members will go to great lengths to keep things as is.
If a warmer winter causes the famed azaleas to bloom before the tournament, Augusta National will reportedly dump massive amounts of ice on the roots to slow the blooming process.
And nearly everything here gets a name. There’s Rae’s Creek, and Amen Corner, and there was the Eisenhower Tree, estimated to be nearly 120 years old before its demise. On the grounds of Augusta National, sometimes a tree isn’t just a tree.
Sometimes it’s a tragedy.
“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” Augusta chairman Billy Payne said in a statement in February.
One year later, Payne was still talking about the tree. Soon enough, part of it will be in Kansas.