Ridley was born in Lakeland, Florida. He attended Winter Haven High School in nearby Winter Haven, Florida.
Ridley attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. While attending the university, he played for coach Buster Bishop's Florida Gators men's golf team and was an alternate on the Gators golf team that won the NCAA national tournament in 1973. He graduated from the University of Florida College of Business Administration with a bachelor's degree in marketing in 1974, and earned a juris doctor degree from the Stetson University College of Law in 1977. Ridley was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Distinguished Letterwinner."
In 1975, Ridley won the U.S. Amateur, the preeminent amateur golf tournament in the United States, on the James River Course of the Country Club of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia. He defeated Keith Fergus in the 36-hole final, having beaten Curtis Strange and Andy Bean in previous rounds of the match-play championship. He has competed in fifteen USGA championships, including ten U.S. Amateurs.
Ridley was a member of the U.S. World Amateur Eisenhower Trophy team in 1976, and the U.S. Walker Cup team in 1977. In the 1977 Walker Cup, he won two singles matches (both against Sandy Lyle) and lost his foursomes match. He also won the Monroe Invitational in 1976.
He served as captain of the U.S. Walker Cup teams in 1987 and 1989, and of the U.S. World Amateur team in 2010.
Ridley was the last U.S. Amateur champion to have never become a professional golfer. He played in three Masters Tournaments and a U.S. Open as an amateur. Internationally, Ridley competed in the British Open in 1976 and the British Amateur in 1977 and 1987. His career-low 18-hole round is 63.
Ridley was elected president of the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 2004, and served as the co-chairman of the International Golf Federation. He had been elected as a member of the executive board, treasurer, vice president of the USGA, and has also served as the chairman of the USGA's Championship Committee, Amateur Status and Conduct Committee, and International Team Selection Committee.
Ridley, who is a member of Augusta National Golf Club, served as the competition committee chairman for The Masters in 2011. On August 23, 2017, Augusta National announced that Ridley would succeed Billy Payne as chairman of the club in October.
Ridley works as a commercial real estate lawyer in Tampa, Florida. He is a partner in the law firm of Foley & Lardner, and practices in the areas of commercial real estate finance and development, planned unit development, resort development, and multifamily and condominium development. He is married to the former Elizabeth ("Betsy") Herndon, a fellow University of Florida graduate. He and Betsy have three daughters.1975 U.S. Amateur
1976 Monroe Invitational
AmateurEisenhower Trophy: 1976
Walker Cup: 1977 (winners), 1987 (winners, non-playing captain), 1989 (non-playing captain)