Steve Rickert finished in a tie for the title at the 2012 Wyoming Senior Golfers’ Association annual tournament. Golfers 50 and up compete in the event, and Rickert is aiming for his fourth title at the 2013 tourney next week.
In 2012, he carded a 144 for the two-day, 36-hole event held at the Three Crowns Golf Club in Casper, but he ended up deadlocked with John Hornbeck of Saratoga. Hornbeck, who won the crown the previous four years, bested him in a playoff for the title.
They met on a par-five hole, and Hornbeck reached the green in two shots, one less than Rickert. Both men needed two putts to finish the hole, giving Hornbeck the win.
The two have been battling for the championship for most of a decade, with Rickert winning in 2005-2007.
“Yes, he’s won five in a row, but I could have won eight without him,” Rickert said during a July 18 interview at the Powell Golf Club. “It’s usually he and I.”
Rickert was two shots off the pace after the opening round after he shot a 73 and Hornbeck recorded a 71. But they swapped scores on the second day, and ended in a tie at 144-144, forcing the sudden-death finish.
Rickert, 60, said while he hopes to win another title, he will enjoy the competition and the two days on the course. That’s a lesson he picked up from his father, Ron Rickert, who will also play in the tourney.
Ron Rickert, 82, has been swinging a club for 70 years. He learned the game while working as a caddy in Colorado in the 1940s, and has been an avid, and skilled, player ever since.
Ron, who moved his family to Powell in 1968, claimed more than 20 Powell Golf Club championships over the years, and his wife Mary won 13. They passed their love of the game along to their five children.
“I love it,” he said. “I don’t practice like I used to — if I put in the time I think I could still be pretty good.”
Well, actually, he’s still very good, carrying a 12 handicap. Time has cost him some length off his drives, he admits. When he and his son share a round, he’s 50 to 60 yards back of him after the opening shot, Ron said.
At his peak, he was one of the best golfers in Wyoming, winning the 1974 state amateur title. He carded eight aces, has a personal-best score of 64 on the old Powell course, and once shot a 29 for nine holes.
An abiding love for golf
Ron worked for Amoco Petroleum, but after a workforce reduction in 1986, he took a position caring for the Powell golf course. His wife said it was a logical step.
“Mary said, ‘It’s good. You’re going to be out there all the time. You might as well get paid to do it,’” he said with a smile.
Ron also follows professional golf closely. It’s always on at his home, his son said. Over the years, he has attended tournaments, and partnered with golf legends Billy Casper and Patty Berg at pro-am events.
He used to play a lot more but now, with Mary ill, he spends more time at home to be with her, and has less time for the game he has been devoted to since he was a boy.
Their sons Steve, Troy, Gary and Kevin all played, as did their daughter Denise. Kevin died as a young man, but the other four still maintain an interest in golf, he said.
Steve, however, has proven to the best of the bunch.
“At the present time, he’s as good as I was,” Ron said.
“He was good for a lot of years,” Steve said of his dad.
Their games are very similar. Both men are left-handed, but play right-handed. Both have relied on deft touches with irons and wedges, and both putt well. The short game is the key to big success, Ron said.
Steve learned to play growing up, often hacking his way around a par-three course in Colorado while his dad played the main course. Then, when he was 14, he fired an 86 on a regulation course, and he and his dad realized it was time for him to play the long holes from then on.
He was exposed to another side of the game when he would accompany his dad to jobsites. Ron would hit balls into fields “and I had to shag his damn balls for him,” Steve said as both men break out wide grins.
He honed his game at Northwest College, where he eventually became a scratch golfer. He played for years, but when he moved to Texas in the 1980s, he played a lot less than he had in the past.
“It was too damn hot to play there,” he said. “I played once a week. I try to play three times a week now.”
Steve also dealt with heartbreak, as his wife Cathy developed cancer and died in 1998. That was a blow, he admits, but he has now met a woman named Michelle Thiel, and they are engaged.
He also regained his love for golf, and soon was playing as well as he had in decades. Steve, who works at North Fork Anglers in Cody, said he is playing in pain now, and will have both hips replaced this winter.
“He’s still playing well now,” Ron quickly adds.
The father and son have gone head-to-head in a few tourneys, but that did not create a rivalry or any hard feelings, they said.
“I always rooted for Dad, and he always rooted for me,” Steve said.
They’ll get a chance to do so again in the 55th annual seniors’ tournament. This year’s tourney will be held Monday and Tuesday, July 29-30, at the Powder Horn in Sheridan.
In addition to the Rickerts, several other Powell golfers are expected to join the field, which has been capped at 144, according to Mike Kitchen of Lovell, the secretary-treasurer of the Wyoming Senior Golfers’ Association. He said about 130 golfers had signed up in advance, and he hopes a full field tees off Monday.
Kitchen, 62, will be on the course.
“The game is still a challenge to me, and I still enjoy competing,” he said.
Kitchen said the golfers who enter range from duffers with handicaps in the 20s to near-scratch golfers like Hornbeck and Steve Rickert. Several other Powell golfers are expected to compete, including Jerry Scheafer, Ken Rochlitz, Jim Turk, Wes Metzler, Ray Nelson and Manny Briseno.
Ron is a former Wyoming Senior Golfers’ Association board member, and Steve serves on it now. They said Powell has always strongly supported the tourney.
“We usually have the most entrants for a town except for the town that hosts it,” Steve said. “We just have a bunch of good guys who play a lot.”
There are five flights: Freshman, for golfers ages 50-56, Sophomores for those 57 to 63, Juniors for 64 to 70, Seniors for those 71-77, and Senior Seniors for 78 and up.
Ron Rickert won the Senior Seniors division last year, and aspires to do so again this year. If the Rickerts can both claim a crown, it won’t be that unusual, but it will still be fun, they said.
A third generation of championship golfers seems unlikely, since Steve’s sons Tyler, 23, and Kevin, 18, are not very interested in the sport. But Ron and Steve said they have no plans to hang up their clubs anytime soon.
They have the same answer when asked how much longer they will play: As long as they can.