AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Fred Ridley enjoyed a distinguished career in amateur golf but in his first news conference as Augusta National chairman on Wednesday he described his new role as the most “significant chapter” in his involvement with the sport.
The 65-year-old business lawyer and resident of Tampa first rode down Magnolia Lane 42 years ago to compete in the 1976 Masters and was elected chairman of one of the world’s most powerful golf clubs last August.
“As just the seventh person to serve as chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, I begin the most significant chapter in my lifelong connection to the game of golf,” Ridley said on the eve of the Masters.
“I accept the responsibility with humility, with a determination to pursue the principles established by our founders and I believe fully prepared to lead this organisation as we explore new and impactful ways to impact the game of golf.”
Ridley, who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur Championship, is the first Augusta National Chairman who played in the Masters, having done so from 1976-78. He also owns the distinction of being the last U.S. amateur champion never to have turned professional.
It was as a competitor at the Masters where he met Clifford Roberts, Augusta National’s first chairman, and has been associated with each of the club’s chairmen since.
Ridley, who works as a lawyer, became a member at Augusta National in 2000 and began serving as chairman of the Tournament’s Competition Committees in 2007.
“I read a lot in the past few months about things our founders said about really what our role and obligation was in the game of golf, and it’s been a consistent theme and part of our culture that we have an obligation to give back to the game,” Ridley said.
“Originally that was through, exclusively through, the Masters Tournament. In more recent years, again, with the ability we have to do that, we have done a lot more.
“And I think really it really goes back to the founders’ belief that Augusta National and the Masters had an obligation to contribute back to the game, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Ridley already made good on his promise by announcing that Augusta National will host a women’s amateur championship the week before next year’s U.S. Masters.
“I just felt that there was an opportunity and a platform to make a statement as to how we feel about this part of the game,” said Ridley. “I just felt it was time to do that.
“I happen to have three daughters, and they all love golf. They’re not really very good players, but they all love the game. And I know they’re going to be really excited about this.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue, editing by Ed Osmond