Money, power and privilege can certainly control many aspects of American life, but it evidently cannot control Mother Nature.
Augusta National Golf Club was forced to remove the Eisenhower Tree—named in honor of Augusta National member and former United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower—from the 17th hole over the weekend due to damage sustained during an historic ice storm that swept through the region earlier in the week.
"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept," club chairman Billy Payne said in a statement released to the media (as reported by Bob Harig of ESPN.com). "We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.”
The tree was a loblolly pine and was estimated to be somewhere in the vicinity of 100-125 years old.
During Eisenhower’s days as an Augusta National member between 1948 and 1969, he hit the tree so often that he tried to use his hefty political clout to have club chairman and co-founder Clifford Roberts remove that pesky loblolly pine.
But as Eisenhower would quickly find out, even the power of a sitting U.S. president paled in comparison to a membership base containing titans of industry, real estate moguls, Wall Street giants and old-money billionaires who were infinitely more wealthy and powerful than Eisenhower could ever dream of being.
Roberts denied Eisenhower’s request, and the tree that became known as the Eisenhower Tree evolved into one of the most recognizable landmarks on arguably the most famous golf course in the world.
The Eisenhower Tree also became an integral feature of the design of the 17th hole.
The tree jutted out into the left portion of the 17th fairway about 220 yards from the tournament tee box, forcing players to either play down the right side of the fairway or hit a high right-to-left shot in order to position themselves properly for a clear approach into the green.
Although the Eisenhower Tree has created many memorable moments over the years, it most recently made headlines back in 2011, when Tiger Woods injured his left knee and Achilles tendon while attempting to hit an approach shot from the pine straw underneath the tree. The injury Woods sustained underneath the Eisenhower Tree would eventually cause him to miss several months of the season as well as the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
The complexion of the 17th hole, named Nandina by the golf club, would look vastly different today without the most famous loblolly pine in the world wreaking havoc along the left side of the fairway.
But Masters participants shouldn’t get too comfortable with the idea of being able to grip and rip their tee shot off of the 17th tee in a couple of months.
"We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history—rest assured, we will do both appropriately,” Payne said, via ESPN.com.
While money, power and privilege might not be able to control Mother Nature, would anyone be surprised if the Augusta National Golf Club spent the next few days scouring to the globe to locate an identical loblolly pine tree and then had that new tree up alongside the 17th fairway by week's end?
This writer would certainly not be the least bit surprised if an Eisenhower Tree Part II was planted long before the azaleas begin to bloom in Augusta.