AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Ridley sat down Wednesday on the eve of the Masters to address media for the first time as chairman of Augusta National.
The seventh chairman was appreciative of his role, mentioning that he’s had a relationship with Augusta National for more than 40 years, since he first played in the Masters in 1976 as the winner of the U.S. Amateur. Ridley is the only chairman to compete in the Masters, which he’s played three times.
After pleasantries and opening statements, including paying homage to predecessor Billy Payne, Ridley announced the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, where the final round will be held at Augusta National next year, the Saturday (April 6, 2019) before the Masters begins.
Other highlights from Ridley’s news conference:
The distance issue was front and center. In fact, Ridley brought it up himself. While he did not specifically say which side of the fence Augusta National sits, he did say that he’s confident that all parties will do what’s right for the betterment of golf.
“We continue to closely monitor how distances produced by today’s players affect our game,” he said. “Thankfully, we do have options, and further change may come after proper deliberation. But we do not think that additional length should be the immediate or only reaction to what we continue to observe in the Masters.
“We have been consistent in expressing our confidence in the governing bodies, and we will continue to support their efforts. Although differing views may well, in fact, exist on the subject among golf's major stakeholders, we hope and strongly encourage all who are a part of our sport to work together in the best interest of the game as this important issue evolves.
“We fully appreciate and want – do not want any action to be taken that's going to make golf harder. We have an obligation to grow the game, and so we’re sensitive to that. So these issues don’t always coincide. And like any difficult question, it requires compromise and debate.”
From there Ridley was asked about lengthening the 13th hole, which has been something that’s been debated for years.
“There’s a great quote from Bobby Jones dealing specifically with the 13th hole, which has been lengthened over time, and he said that the decision to go for the green in two should be a momentous one,” Ridley said. “And I would have to say that our observations of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision.”