Fred Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and past president of the U.S. Golf Association, has been elected chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.
Ridley, 65, succeeds outgoing chairman Billy Payne, the club announced Wednesday morning.
The Florida native resides in Tampa and is the seventh chairman in the club and tournament’s history. Ridley is the first chairman to have played in the Masters: he played three consecutive years, 1976-78, and missed the cut each time.
Ridley, however, would no doubt get the approval of Augusta National and Masters co-founder Bobby Jones, who is widely considered the game’s greatest amateur player. Ridley is the last U.S. Amateur champion to not turn professional.
A business lawyer and partner in the international law firm of Foley & Lardner LLP, Ridley is currently the national chair of the firm’s real estate practice.
Ridley was not made available for comment, but Payne said he had handpicked him for one of the most high-profile positions in the sports world.
“I was told by my predecessor, Hootie Johnson, the most important decision you’ll ever make is who succeeds you,” Payne said Tuesday. “I figured I’d better spend several years figuring out what the job is all about, and then it will be time to start looking. That’s what I did. It became clear that Fred Ridley was immensely qualified and a wonderful human being, and highly regarded by the membership and the world of golf.”
Ridley is easily the most distinguished golfer to become chairman of the club and tournament. He competed in 10 U.S. Amateurs and was a member of the 1976 U.S. World Amateur Team and the 1977 U.S. Walker Cup Team. He later served as captain of the 1987 and 1989 U.S. Walker Cup teams and the 2010 U.S. World Amateur Team.
Ridley served on the USGA Executive Committee from 1994-2005 and was elected president of the USGA for 2004-05. He joined Augusta National in 2000 and was chairman of the tournament’s Competition Committee from 2007-17.
In that role, Ridley was thrust into the spotlight during the 2013 Masters with a rules controversy involving Tiger Woods.
In the second round, Woods’ ball hit the flagstick and caromed into the pond at the 15th hole. Woods took a drop that was later deemed improper, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty before the third round began. Ridley used his discretion and decided not to disqualify Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard because the committee had initially deemed his drop legal after reviewing visual evidence and never discussed it with Woods before he signed his card.
“To me it would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him after our committee had made that decision,” Ridley said at the time. “I mean, there’s no question that Tiger should be penalized. That’s not the issue. The issue is what should we do in imposing that penalty.”
Ridley and his wife Betsy have three daughters, Maggie, Libby and Sydney.