It’s gone but the Eisenhower Tree is still special
Mike Brown

This story makes me feel good, but I can’t really explain why.

Maybe it’s just that I like the idea that in the end, all Americans should count the same, no matter how powerful and revered they may be.

Or maybe it’s a less noble emotion. Maybe I just glory in the idea that we live in a nation where eccentric, cantankerous old codgers can get away with some of the things they do.

Late last month a tree was cut down in Georgia because it was dying after a spell of cold weather.

As you might expect, this wasn’t just any old tree. It was quite possibly the most famous tree on any golf course in the world. It was a 65-foot tall lob-lolly pine 210 yards down the 17th fairway at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tourney.

There are lots of trees along that fairway but this one set out away from them quite a bit.

So far, in fact, that golfers were forced to either hit their drives over the tree or bend them skilfully to avoid hitting it.

Art by Zykayra Hurd, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Art by Zykayra Hurd, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Lots of golfers couldn’t. One of those just happened to be the President of the United States.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a member of Augusta National from 1948 until his death in 1969. He was an avid golfer but on Augusta’s No. 17 he couldn’t quite hit the ball over the tree or around it.

It got into his head. Eisenhower campaigned to have the tree cut down.

All to no avail. Finally, just as he was finishing his first term as president in late 1956, he decided to bring the matter to the club’s board of governors.

The man who devised the plan to free Europe from the Nazis, who was elected president in two landslide elections, stood before club chair Cliff Roberts and began to make his proposal.

Roberts—who was a club co-founder and one of those eccentric, cantankerous old codgers I mentioned— told the president he was out of order, adjourned the meeting and stomped out of the room!

At that moment the tree became known as the Eisenhower Tree.

It survived the president by 45 years, bedeviling golfers all of that time.

In 1973, on the next to last day of the Masters, Tommy Aaron drove a ball high into the tree’s branches. It didn’t come down.

A search failed to find the ball and Aaron was awarded a free drop (no penalty stroke).

The next day, in the final round, incredibly as Aaron was playing the 17th hole, that ball fell from the heights of the Eisenhower Tree into what would have been an unplayable lie.

Aaron won the tourney by one stroke.

Thirty-six years later, Tiger Woods, in trying to play a tough shot from underneath the Eisenhower Tree, strained knee ligaments so badly he missed two major tourneys.

And now the tree that survived a direct request for its destruction by the President of the United States has been felled.

By an ice storm.

In Georgia.

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