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  • Billy Payne ruled more with an open mind than an iron fist. As the sixth chairman of Augusta National Golf Club — and the first with no direct link to co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts — he held fast to the heritage and traditions of the club, while looking beyond Magnolia Lane at how the Masters could wield influence around the world for more than one week of the year. Women joined Augusta National for the first time. Juniors were allowed to attend the Masters for free with an adult. Amateurs from the Asia Pacific region and throughout Latin America could dream about competing for a green jacket. Payne announced Wednesday that he is retiring after 11 years of change that made the Augusta National logo more powerful than ever. 'There are two people that matter here — Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones,' Payne said. 'The rest of us are custodians. We do our best to first embrace, and thereafter hopefully to advance their philosophies for this club and for the game of golf — their obsession for detail, their passion to be the best. And I've done that now for a considerable number of years.' He officially retires on Oct. 16 when the club, which is closed during the summer, opens for a new season. Payne will be succeeded by Fred Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and USGA president who is chairman of the Masters competition committee. Ridley will be the seventh chairman, and the first to have played in the Masters. Payne stays on as chairman emeritus. Augusta National speaks with one voice, and in that respect, Payne was no different from the other chairmen. With his Southern, homespun style, the 69-year-old Georgia native was more about collaboration than calling all the shots. Payne ends a remarkable career marked by two sporting events in which he had little previous experience. He had never been to the Olympics when Payne, a little-known real estate lawyer, led a long-shot bid to bring the Summer Games to Atlanta in 1996. He relied heavily on corporate support, and he showed early signs of his commitment to diversity and inclusion. He chose two women among the first five volunteers he selected for the Atlanta organizing committee. Payne did not take up golf until his adult years. He was invited to join Augusta National in 1997, a year after he concluded his work with the Atlanta Games. Nine years later, Hootie Johnson selected him as his successor as chairman. 'I committed my entire life to both at those respective times,' he said of his work on the Olympics and at Augusta National. Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore became the first women to join Augusta National in 2012, no doubt an influence when the Royal & Ancient at St. Andrews, and later Muirfield and Royal Troon, added women to its membership rolls. That was but a small part of Payne's influence over the club and the Masters. Wanting to expand the reach of golf, he worked with the R&A to start the Asia-Pacific Amateur, awarding the winner a spot in the Masters with hopes it would create heroes in an emerging market. The second winner was Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who now is No. 2 in the world. The USGA and R&A then joined with Augusta National's next venture, the Latin America Amateur. Payne also brought in the USGA and PGA of America to start the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, which attracts children all over the country to compete in golf skills, with the finals held at Augusta National on the Sunday before the Masters. 'Forget about the fringe things,' former USGA executive director David Fay said. 'He took the opportunity to make sure that Augusta National was not just one of the four majors, but that it had a role at the table in decision-making for the game of golf.' Payne also invested heavily at the club by scooping up land around the perimeter to enhance the tournament. That includes free parking for the spectators, and the opening of Berckmans Place, a state-of-the-art hospitality area just beyond the fifth fairway. Payne loves to tell the story of how his father would always ask him, 'Did you do your best?' Payne says he never felt he could answer affirmatively, which drove him to a relentless work ethic in bringing the Olympics to Atlanta and in his role as Augusta National chairman. 'Yes, there's a striving for perfection,' Payne said. 'Striving for perfection is truly an obsession here, in the context of the Masters. We want to be able to provide for our patrons, our fans around the world, the absolute best sporting experience they have ever encountered. And we go to extremes to try to do that. 'We never get it quite right,' he said. 'But man, we try hard.' Ridley first met Roberts when he played the Masters in 1976 as the U.S. Amateur champion. Like Payne, his background is in real estate law. Payne recalls that when he began his tenure as chairman, his predecessor told him the most important job he faced was finding his own successor. Payne says health was not the reason behind his retirement. He had triple-bypass surgery when he was 34, and another triple bypass in 1993 while working on the Atlanta Games. He was more concerned about his back, which has kept him from playing golf as much as he would like. 'This honor ... is too great for one person to claim as their own for too long a period of time,' Payne said. 'I retire knowing it is simply the right thing to do — and at the right moment — to open the door and invite someone new to be called upon to lead.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs are the 15th ranked team in the preseason AP college football poll: Alabama is number one, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, Southern Cal, and Clemson. The Dogs open the season in 11 days at home against Appalachian State.  Kickoff on September 2 is set for 6:30. Alabama (52) Ohio State (3) Florida State (4) USC (2) Clemson  Penn State  Oklahoma Washington  Wisconsin  Oklahoma State  Michigan  Auburn  LSU  Stanford  Georgia  Louisville  Florida  Miami  South Florida Kansas State  Virginia Tech  West Virginia  Texas  Washington State Tennessee  Others receiving votes: TCU (98), Utah (85), Notre Dame (65), Boise State (37), NC State (26), Northwestern (25), Pittsburgh (23), Oregon (21), Houston (19), Colorado (18), UCLA (9), San Diego State (9), BYU (5), Appalachian State (4), Nebraska (4), Tulsa (4), Kentucky (3), Texas A&M (3), Michigan State (1).
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia soccer defeated High Point, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon for the Bulldogs’ first win of the 2017 season.   In the 71st minute, Maddie Burdick passed to Caroline Chipman, who played the ball into the box, allowing Katie MacGinnitie to kick it into the back of the net, putting the Bulldogs up 1-0.   “We’re happy to come away with the win,” Georgia head coach Billy Lesesne said. “I think our effort was there, just as it was Friday night against Wake Forest, but today we ended up grinding it out and getting a hard-worked goal. It was not a thing of beauty but the players kept it alive until Katie was able to put it away. It was a really nice finish and a determined effort at the end of the field.”   Georgia (1-1) controlled the ball offensively throughout the first half of the game, taking nine shots to High Point’s (1-1) one, but the score remained 0-0 after the first 45 minutes of play.    The Bulldogs came out determined in the second half, continuing to control possession.    High Point’s best chance for the equalizer came seven minutes after Georgia took the 1-0 lead with a penalty kick that hit the left goal post and went wide.   Georgia hits the road for the first time this season when the team travels to take on Charlotte on Friday, August 25 at 7 p.m. before continuing onto Blacksburg, Virginia to play the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sunday, August 27 at 2 p.m.   Fans now have the opportunity to enjoy Georgia soccer games with a UGA soccer seatback. The seatbacks are thick and comfortable, and can be purchased at the Fan Info table located in the plaza of the Turner Soccer Complex for $5 per game. You can also save $15 by purchasing a soccer seatback for all nine home matches of the season for a total of $30.
  • ATHENS, Ga.--- Three members of the Georgia soccer team have been named to the Southeastern Conference Soccer Preseason Watch List announced Wednesday by the conference office. Since 2011, the SEC has named a watch list in lieu of selecting preseason all-conference teams.     Seniors Louise Hogrell and Mariel Gutierrez, as well as freshman Katie Higgins joined players from each of the other 13 member institutions on the list. Hogrell receives the honor for the third consecutive season, while this marks the second consecutive season Gutierrez was named to the list.    Hogrell returns in goal for Georgia after playing all but 15 minutes during the 2016 season. She led the SEC in saves (94) and ranked second in saves per game (5.22). The Asa, Sweden native ranks near the top in several UGA career records following her junior season, including fifth in career shutouts (14), fifth in saves (262), and fifth in wins (21).    Gutierrez is back for her senior season as Georgia’s leading returner in assists with four in 2016. The Mexico City, Mexico native started all 18 games at midfield for the Bulldogs last season and scored four goals.     Higgins kicks off her collegiate career after leading PDA O’Reilly to an ECNL U-18 Northeast Conference championship and a quarterfinals finish in the national playoffs. The Andreas, Pennsylvania native was an early enrollee who contributed in the spring in preparation for the 2017 season. She started in the exhibition game against Auburn and took one shot.   Georgia will officially kick off the 2017 season at the Turner Soccer Complex against Wake Forest on Friday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs cap off opening weekend in Athens against High Point on Sunday, Aug. 20 at 2 p.m. Admission is free.