Augusta, GA (WLTX) - Hootie Johnson, the former chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club and a University of South Carolina alumni, has died.
Johnson was 86.
Current Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne confirmed Johnson's passing in a statement.
"Augusta national Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are today mourning the loss of William Woodward "Hootie" Johnson, our beloved Chairman Emeritus. Hootie passed away this morning at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional service to our Club, our Tournament and the game of golf.
"Hootie was named Chairman of Augusta National on May 1, 1998. During his eight-year tenure, we always admired his genuine and unrelenting respect for the traditions and vision of the Club and Tournament established by our Founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. He boldly directed numerous course improvements to ensure that Augusta National would always represent the very finest test of golf. Simultaneously, Hootie expanded television coverage of the Masters, improved qualification standards for invitation to the Tournament and reopened the series badge waiting list for the first time in more than 20 years. Many of these measures brought more people than ever closer to the Masters and inspired us to continue exploring ways to welcome people all over the world to the Tournament and the game of golf."
Johnson led the Augusta National Golf Club from 1998 to 2006. During that time, the Masters course saw a significant expansion.
His tenure as the head of Augusta National was also known for a controversy over whether to allow women members. Back in 2002, Martha Burk, the chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, pointed out the fact that the club, which included many top CEOs, never invited women to join. Johnson defended the club's long-standing policy.
Years later, after Johnson left as the head of the club, Augusta National invited former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and USC graduate and financier Darla Moore to be its first female members.
Johnson had also been a top executive at Bank of America, Duke Power, and Alltel.