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Augusta's iconic Eisenhower Tree victim of winter storm

(Reuters) - Augusta National's famed Eisenhower Tree, an iconic image at the Masters tournament, survived an attempt by the former U.S. president to have it chopped down but it could not survive a severe winter storm.

The loblolly pine, believed to be at least 100 years old, had to be removed from its position on the 17th fairway after being damaged by an ice storm that swept through the Masters venue in Augusta, Georgia last week.

"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult to accept," Augusta National and Masters chairman Billy Payne said in a statement on Sunday.

"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."

Payne said that Augusta National had sustained no further major damage and that the course had been opened for its members to play with ongoing preparations unaffected for this year's Masters.

The tree, which was about 65 feet tall, guarded the left side of the fairway at the par-four 17th and was strategically situated 210 yards from the tee.

It received its name because former U.S. president and club member Dwight Eisenhower hit into the tree so often he campaigned to have it removed.

David Owen, in his book 'The Making of the Masters', wrote that "Eisenhower hated the tree, because it invariably interfered with his slice.

"At the governors meeting in 1956 ... Eisenhower took the floor to propose cutting it down.

"(Clifford) Roberts (club chairman and co-founder) immediately ruled him out of order and adjourned the meeting, and the pine has been known ever since as the Eisenhower Tree."

The 2014 Masters will take place from Apr. 10-13.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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