Resident to be inducted into PGA Hall of Fame
When Larry Ringer struck out on the golf course, he struck up a relationship that carries him to this day.
Then 10, Ringer, an avid and “pretty good” baseball player, tailed his father out to the golf course on which their Culpeper, Va., home was located.
“My father asked me to hit a golf ball,” Ringer remembered.
Ringer swung. He missed. Strike 1.
Ringer swung again. He whiffed again. Strike 2.
Thinking “this sport is like baseball, and you get three strikes,” Ringer swung again. He came up empty again, a third time. Strike 3.
Instead of being out, Ringer felt like he smacked a home run “when I finally hit it.”
He eventually traded in baseball and several other sports to focus on the game of golf.
“I was stuck,” Ringer said. “It was a challenge.
“That’s why I stay with it, because I found a challenge to do it.”
Fifty-five years later, Ringer is being inducted into the Middle Atlantic PGA Hall of Fame.
The honors will be bestowed during two gatherings, a presentation to the body’s membership on Feb. 28 and during an induction dinner March 19 at Landsdowne Country Club.
To the 65-year-old Ringer, it’s the culmination of a career dedicated to playing the game, teaching the game and being involved with his regional PGA group.
“I can’t even begin to tell you what it means,” said Ringer, who moved to a home with his wife, Judy, at the Cress Creek Country Club 10 years ago.
“You never get into the golf business to try to do something to get into the Hall of Fame. Here you go, it’s 38 years later after a reasonably good playing career and service to the organization, and they elect you into an organization that has about 40 members.
“It’s kind of a shock and humbling.”
Ringer will be joined by the late Johnny Flattery in the two-member class.
Ringer works as the PGA Director of Instruction at Musket Ridge in Myersville, Md., and still plays, getting “frustrated if I don’t shoot 65 every time.”
While it is with his age that he tries to shoot comes wisdom, Ringer has always viewed golf as a gentleman’s game and has treated it as such. There’s honor in his game.
“I think probably the best thing is I tried to play the game with integrity and honesty,” Ringer said, “and I tried to represent the game as a PGA professional.”
He’s played with some of golf’s greats – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson – and led the 1995 U.S. Senior Open after the first day of play at Congressional Country Club. Ringer had once been an assistant pro at that club.
“Those are things that are highlights to my (playing) career,” Ringer said.
He finished 21st in the Senior Open he led.
He kind of double-bogeyed the second day, but on the third and fourth days, Ringer rebounded.
“Those are the things people remember,” Ringer said, “because of the national things.”
Ringer won more than 150 “events that had ‘pro’ in it.”
“To me to sit back, it’s wow,” Ringer said. “Some guys only win a half-dozen or a dozen tournaments, and I got lucky.”
Ringer played in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship twice each. Six times, he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open and played in the 2001 Senior PGA Championship.
He won honors as the Middle Atlantic PGA Senior player of the year in 2008.
He’s also served the Middle Atlanta PGA, based in Stafford, Va., in many capacities, including president.
“I’m still involved with the committees,” Ringer said. “Every day, something comes up.”
Golf’s his life and has been since that day on the course with his father.
Chipping, pitching and putting are his best attributes at present, Ringer explained, but he thinks his mental acuity served him even more throughout his career.
“I probably had a tremendous mental advantage over everybody, because I knew I couldn’t lose,” Ringer said. “That was my whole mentality. I wouldn’t say it was outthinking everybody, but I wouldn’t let things get to me.
“That’s the thing. I think I could do better than anybody else. Do that a few times (come back), and people are looking over their shoulders.
“It’s not just being a robot hitting a golf shot. It’s being patient, remaining patient. Some days you don’t do as well as you like to, but that doesn’t mean you should quit trying.”
Ringer knows that the sometimes trying nature of the game can lead some to quit.
Ringer maintains that golfers of any level can’t improve their games unless they work on it. And not just that time spent with a club pro during lessons.
“Golf is one of those individual sports in that you don’t have a coach giving you a lesson all the time or working with you for six hours a day,” Ringer said. “You have to go out there on your own.”
Ringer discovered that aspect early into his career. He was determined to be the best he could possibly be.
So during the fall as a budding player, he’d be out on the high school baseball field hitting golf balls. In the spring, he’d move to the football field.
He was determined then, and “I’m still determined today.”
A golfing graduate of Murray State, Ringer turned professional in 1971. He spent 15 seasons as the head golf coach at the U.S. Naval Academy before moving into some different positions and finally Musket Ridge.
For Ringer, it’s been a long golf career of playing, teaching and serving.
He’s not about to stop either.