The Tampa resident is elected USGA president, but women's group doesn't like his all-male memberships.
By BOB HARIG
Published February 8, 2004
LAKE BUENA VISTA - As new president of the United States Golf Association, Tampa's Fred Ridley faces issues that range from promoting junior golf, technological advancements that have a pronounced effect at the professional level and growing the game.
And there is Martha Burk, too.
Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has for more than a year challenged Augusta National Golf Club to admit its first female member. Last week she criticized the USGA and Ridley, who is a member of the famous Georgia club and on Saturday was elected president at the USGA's annual meeting.
Ridley, 51, an attorney in the Tampa law office of Foley & Lardner, the 1975 U.S. Amateur champ and father of three daughters, became an Augusta member four years ago. He also is a member at all-male Pine Valley in New Jersey and Tampa's Old Memorial and Palma Ceia.
"I respect the fact that anybody might feel there is an inconsistency involved in my public life and my private life," Ridley said Saturday. "But I don't feel that way. I feel that where I play golf really doesn't have anything to do with or have any impact on me doing the best job I can for the USGA. ... I'm not saying it's nobody's business. I don't feel it has had or will have any impact on my work for the USGA."
Ridley's job as president is a nonpaid, volunteer position. He was elected to a one-year term, although tradition dictates presidents serve two years. Ridley has been a member of the USGA's executive committee since 1994 in various capacities. Walter Driver of Atlanta was elected as one of two vice presidents. Driver, also an Augusta member, is expected to succeed Ridley as president in two years.
The USGA, which governs golf in the United States and Mexico, establishing rules and running 13 national championships including the U.S. Open, does not allow its events to be staged at an exclusionary club.
In her statement last week Burk described the situation as "embarrassing" and asked the USGA to "explain the contradiction between (its) stated policies on discrimination and Mr. Ridley's ... membership in Augusta National." She also said if Ridley "does not have the character to speak out ... against discrimination, it is highly questionable whether he has the character to run an organization such as the USGA."
Ridley said: "If I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, I hope people are not going to spend a lot of time focusing on it, because it's just not that important to what I'm trying to do."