Winter storms claim famed Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National

By John Kim,

Sad news out of Augusta.

The ice storms that hit much of Georgia in mid-February -- not to mention a freak earthquake that shook the Augusta area on Feb. 14 -- took a heavy toll on one of golf's most famous landmarks. The iconic Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National Golf Club, historic home of the Masters, suffered major damage during the storms and was removed over the weekend.

That's right, golf's most famous pine tree -- which for decades guarded the left side of the par-4 17th hole -- is no more.

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters, released a statement on Feb. 16, saying, “Like so many of our family, friends and neighbors in this community, Augusta National Golf Club has been busy cleaning up after the historic ice storm last week. Everyone affected remains in our hearts and prayers, and we likewise hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept," Payne added. "We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible. 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 can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for Member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters Tournament.”

The Eisenhower Tree got its name because the former President and Augusta National member had a famous disdain for it. Apparently, he used to hit the Loblolly Pine, which sat some 200 yards from the tee box, quite often and he famously lobbied to have it removed. But apparently, the limits of presidential lobbying stop at the gates as club chairman Clifford Roberts overruled Eisenhower's efforts, thus linking the president and the tree forever.

The particularly strong winter storm that swept through the Southeast caused wide-sweeping problems for the region, shutting down airports, roads, schools and contributing to a series of accidents. Along with forcing the removal of the Eisenhower Tree, the storm also blanketed Augusta National in ice and dislodged the course's sign along Magnolia Lane.