AUGUSTA — The Masters Tournament won’t be influenced by calls for a change of venue or a boycott in the wake of Georgia’s recently enacted voting law.
Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the tournament, addressed the issue Wednesday in his news conference on the eve of the 85th Masters.
Critics of the new legislation have said that the new law is too restrictive and features limits on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run. Georgia was in the spotlight for the 2020 presidential election with claims of fraud and voting irregularities.
"We realize that views and opinions on this law differ, and there have been calls for boycotts and other punitive measures," Ridley said as he finished up his opening remarks. "Unfortunately, those actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in our society. And in this case, that includes our friends and neighbors here in Augusta who are the very focus of the positive difference we are trying to make."
Last week, Major League Baseball announced it was moving this summer's All-Star Game from Atlanta because of the sweeping changes to Georgia voting laws. The game is now scheduled to be played in Colorado.
Ridley said that "everyone in our organization" believes the right to vote is "fundamental in our democratic society."
"No one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right, and it is critical that all citizens have confidence in the electoral process," he said. "This is fundamental to who we are as a people."
Ridley pointed out that Augusta National and the Masters are trying to be a positive force through other means. That includes a groundbreaking ceremony held Tuesday for a revitalization project in two of Augusta's urban neighborhoods, and the inclusion of Lee Elder as an honorary starter when the Masters begins Thursday. Elder was the tournament's first Black participant.
Last week, the National Black Justice Coalition urged golf to move the Masters away from Augusta. The Masters, however, is an independently run event; it is not sanctioned by the PGA Tour, PGA of America or U.S. Golf Association.
When pressed, Ridley declined to give his personal opinion on the law.
"I'm not going to speak to the specifics of the law, but I do know that the best way for – I think there's a resolution, and I think that resolution is going to be based on people working together and talking and having constructive dialogue because that's the way our democratic society works," he said.
Ridley also spoke on a number of other issues, including a return to normalcy after two consecutive Masters without the normal complement of spectators.
"We hoped it would be possible to welcome back all of our patrons in 2021. Based on current conditions, however, we concluded the right course of action was to limit patrons this week, and we have done that with appropriate health and safety protocols in place," he said.
"We are optimistic that conditions will continue to improve, and we look forward next year to the full return of the signature roars that have been a part of Masters history."
Ridley also touched on the technology debate and how the game's governing bodies are looking into the issue.
"In early February, our sport's governing bodies announced two areas for research as well as three proposed changes to current equipment standards. Now a conversation will begin to determine the best path forward," he said.
But don't expect many changes to Augusta National.
"As I have stated in the past each year, we look at every hole of our golf course. Fortunately, we do have the ability to make any number of changes to protect the integrity of the course," Ridley said. "At the same time, we hope there will not come a day when the Masters or any golf championship will have to be played at 8,000 yards to achieve that objective."
Associated Press reports were used in this article.