AUGUSTA, Ga. – Men in green Masters jackets gave a warm round of applause to a large wood chip Wednesday.
It wasn't just a scrap from any old tree. To be exact, it was a 6-inch-thick, 4 1/2-foot-in-diameter cross-section of timber cut from the Eisenhower Tree, a soaring loblolly pine that stood like a sentinel guarding the left side of the 17th fairway at Augusta National for some 80 years.
Tributes rolled in when the tree was felled by an ice storm in February 2014, in no small part because of its connection to former president and Augusta member Dwight Eisenhower. Masters officials eulogized the tree at the start of last year's tournament as if it was a deceased family member.
"Since then, we have been challenged to create an appropriate lasting memory," club chairman Billy Payne said during his annual "State of the Masters" address.
A moment later, an employee pulled the curtain off an 8-foot-tall display case housing the memento to applause from Payne and a number of Augusta members ringing the interview room. It was be on display at the tournament this week before being shipped to the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. A second cross-cut section will be retained at the club.
Eisenhower joined Augusta in 1948 — four years before he became president — and hit the tree so often during rounds that he campaigned for its removal during a 1956 committee meeting. He was ruled out of order by co-founder and then-chairman Clifford Roberts and the tree remained where it was, 210 yards out from the tee.
Although the game's big hitters were flying their tee shots over the tree for a decade or so, the tree continued to bedevil shorter hitters and club members until it fell. The club has preserved a seedling in its nursery, though Payne said it was too early to say when and where it will be replanted.