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Florida Southern College President Dr. Anne B. Kerr with the 2023 FSC Athletics Hall of Fame keynote speaker, Mr. Fred Ridley (right), and Class of 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee and Trustee Mr. Bob Adams

Florida Southern College Welcomes Back Fred Ridley for Hall of Fame Induction

Nov 27, 2023

Florida Southern College's 2023 Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet epitomized the profound positive impact of athletics, celebrating the remarkable achievements of Hall of Fame inductees Tim Crouch, Nicole "Nycki" Sandstede, and Coach Gordon Gibbons. This year's ceremony highlighted the outstanding accomplishments of our honorees and featured remarks by distinguished guest, Mr. Fred Ridley, as the keynote speaker for the event.

Fred Ridley's name is familiar to many because you've seen him in a green jacket with CBS Sports legend Jim Nantz on the Sunday evening green jacket ceremony at the Masters Tournament, golf's most prestigious stage. He is Chairperson of Augusta National Golf Club, the most prominent and influential body in golf — and among the most important institutions in all sports. Of note, his journey to this role began with some formative footsteps on the Florida Southern College campus.

Born in Lakeland, Fla., and raised in nearby Winter Haven, Fred Ridley's connection to Florida Southern can be traced back to his mother. "She went back to school in her late 30s and began taking [physical education] courses at FSC," Ridley shared in an interview before the banquet. "It was during this time that she began taking golf lessons from Charley Matlock," Florida Southern College's long-time golf coach who passed away in 2016. "That was one of my earliest introductions to golf."

Ridley would pick up the sport after this, playing junior golf in Winter Haven and later at the varsity level at the University of Florida. In this experience, he reveals one of the most valuable aspects of collegiate athletics. "It was a challenge, academically, to keep up with your studies while you traveled for competitions and practiced for long hours." But his pride in being "a part of the fabric of the university" motivated him to persevere. "We celebrate when we win, and we mourn when we lose. But it's always in the right spirit, and it's always together."

A self-admitted "middle-of-the-road athlete," Ridley realized that a professional golf career likely wasn't in the cards despite his significant amateur accomplishments. However, he did not yet know that his love for the game would eventually bring him to the epicenter of the sport. He went on to study law at Stetson, during which time he met his now wife of 46 years. "We were married a month when I graduated, and both of us native Floridians got in a car for Cleveland, Ohio." Waiting in Ohio would be Ridley's first job out of college with IMG, a prominent sport management firm.

After three years, the couple left the Midwest for the Sunshine State. Ridley joined a Tampa law firm, and the sport he so loved came calling again. "I had gotten out of competitive golf before I turned 30," Ridley remembers, "but I remained close to the sport." So, when he received the chance to coach the Walker Cup — the Ryder Cup's amateur analog — he leapt at the opportunity. From this would eventually come the position of USGA president, a coveted membership at Augusta National Golf Club, and, eventually, a chair position at the 2007 Masters tournament: One of the most powerful roles in sports and a title he holds today. "Out of the last 35 years, there are only a few years where I haven't been involved in the sport of golf," Ridley says, "and I think my few short years at the University of Florida — the experiences I had there — have had an outsized impact on my career and my life."

For Ridley, speaking at Florida Southern College's 2023 Hall of Fame Banquet was an opportunity to honor not only the school that sparked his lifelong passion and its high-achieving student athletes and coaches, but also an opportunity to reflect on a legacy of athletic involvement and the impact college athletics can have on entire institutions, communities, and lives.

"I'm connected to FSC in a number of ways," Ridley shared. His Polk County upbringing and early encounter with Coach Matlock laid the foundation, but his relationship with Florida Southern has only deepened over the years.

"FSC's iconic golf program has produced some unbelievable golfers, many of whom I've had the pleasure to know personally." Ridley's relationship with College benefactors has further connected him with the institution. "George Jenkins, Barney Barnett, and his wife, Carol, have all been deeply ingrained in Lakeland and extremely philanthropic, and I've had the good fortune to witness their generosity firsthand. Returning to Florida Southern for the 2023 Athletic Banquet — and immersing myself in generations of athletic achievement — is an exciting opportunity."