New Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley learned to play golf from Lakeland’s Lone Palm head pro Jamie Jackson, then worked with teachers such as Mike Killian and Irv Schloss.
But it was a few lessons from Jack Grout, who was Jack Nicklaus’ long-time teacher, that helped Ridley prepare for two of the best summers of his amateur career.
Ridley and University of Florida teammate Brad Baldwin were playing in the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst in the summer of 1974 and Baldwin, who had already worked with Grout, invited Ridley to the La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, where Grout taught in addition to Sciota in Columbus, Ohio.
“I took two days of lessons and thought, ‘golly, I’ve never hit it this good,” Ridley told the AP. “I won two or three matches at the North and South, beat Jay Sigel and then that summer I qualified for the U.S. Amateur.”
Ridley went back to Grout the following year, then won the Amateur. Ridley is the first Augusta National chairman to have won the same tournament that founder Bobby Jones captured five times.
“Jack Grout really took my game to another level,” Ridley said.
Of course after winning the amateur in 1975, Ridley had the honor of an invitation to the Masters and the traditional opening-round pairing with the defending Masters champion Nicklaus.