The Follow-Through: Eulogy for a tree
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We mourn the loss of one of golf's iconic figures this week.
This figure has grown to become synonymous with one of the sport's marquee events despite never swinging a club, although it has struck a ball or two over the years.
It's not a person I am speaking of but a tree, namely The Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National.
The 100-plus-year-old loblolly pine located down the left side of the 17th fairway had to removed from the course this past weekend due to extensive damage caused by an ice storm.
"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," chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament Billy Payne said in a statement.
Earning its name from former president and Augusta National member Dwight Eisenhower, who lobbied to have it removed after hitting it on what we can only assume is well more than a few of his tee shots, the tree came to be as well known among the sport as the course itself.
Over the years, many members of the PGA Tour have felt the same way as Eisenhower, wishing that the old pine was long gone as they stood over their tee shot on the hole.
One such member who wished the Augusta board of governors listened to the 34th president is Tiger Woods, who suffered injuries to both his left knee and Achilles after hitting a shot from under the tree following an errant drive in 2011.
Those injuries limited Woods to just four events over the rest of the season, leading to his second straight year without a title.
Another player who had not-so-fond memories of the landmark was six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus, who released a statement on his Facebook page upon hearing the news of the tree's removal.
"When I stood on the 17th tee, my first thought, always, was to stay away from Ike's Tree. Period," Nicklaus stated. "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."
Nicklaus did add, however, his sentiments on the loss of the landmark, saying. "Ike's Tree will be greatly missed."
And so it will.
Looking to the future, what is to be made of the 17th hole now that the ever- stalwart guardian of the fairway is gone?
Plans are already in the works, according to Payne.
"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'm sure whatever they choose to do will be more than sufficient to honor the memory of what once stood on the left side of the 17th fairway, but there is no doubt the hole will just have a different feeling to it.
A feeling slightly less intimidating than one that was there in years past.