Larry Ringer, 32, head golf pro at the U.S. Naval Academy, managed to do something as a club pro he couldn't do as a member of the tour five years ago - qualify for the PGA Championship.
There are dozens of unknown names among the 141 that will tee it up Thursday at the start of the 59th PGA tourney at Pebble Beach. Did you ever hear of Mike Schlueter of Clover, S.C.; Kelly Childs of Birmingham, Ala.; Laurie Hammer of Delray Dunes, Fla.; Jay Morelli of Mt. Snow, Vt., and Vince Bizik of Overland Park, Kan.?
They are the spear-carriers along with Ringer and the club pros who balance the budget and give the PGA national body a tinge of democracy and its independence from the PGA tour.
The PGA's national body had a bitter feud with the touring pros a few years ago. The touring pros still don't dictate the policy of the PGA Championship. Peace has been restored but the PGA national body won its point - that the club pros are a vital part of golf and the PGA Championship is not just another tour stop.
A large part of the PGA Championship thus is reserved for the club pros - those who come into the most contact with the people who support the game - the more than 10 million golfers and the millions more who watch television and make possible the big purses.
The current lineup for the tournament includes the 39 champions of the PGA sections throughout the country Ringer, former Maryland Open champion, said as he teed off in a practice round today. "I qualified for the U.S. Open in 1974 but missed the cut. I tried the PGA tour for a couple of years but couldn't make it so I went back to being a club pro.
"This is really a thrill for me," in addition to the 25 low scorers and ties in the 1976 PGA Club Professional Championship. That's how Larry Ringer got in.
Ringer and his wife, Gail, are staying at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
"The people at the Naval Academy were just super. They not only look up a purse to send me here, they also included Gail. This is my first PGA Championship and it really makes it all worth while. Every club pro wants to play with the best in the business and this is my chance."
Ringer played a practice round Monday and found himself back of Jack Nicklaus. "I followed Larry for five holes," confessed his wife, "and the I got sort of interested watching Nicklaus. It's something to watch the man they say is the greatest golfer of all time. I abandoned Larry but I'm sure he didn't mind."
"I hope," said her husband, "you'll be following Nicklaus and me on Sunday."