Giving is in every fiber of Rick’s being.
When I was younger Rick gave me golf lessons. He’s the reason why, at one point in my life, I had a single-digit handicap.
Because of our time spent together through lessons, when he discovered I love the Kansas City Royals like he loves the Kansas City Royals, he gave me an autographed picture of Bo Jackson. That picture hangs on the wall in my Royals room next to Bill Virdon, Kevin Seitzer, and Dan Quisenberry.
Rick gave me the opportunity to caddy during the first year of the Ben Hogan Tour and tournament at Highland Springs Country Club. When the local pro, Perry Leslie, played an exhibition match against Payne Stewart, Rick gave me the chance to carry Perry’s bag and hang out with Payne for the day. We shared hot dogs at the turn.
This past January, Rick was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions in the sport of golf. He was also chosen as one of Springfield Business Journal’s 2018 Men of the Year. Because, through golf, Rick continues to give.
Rick is a champion for junior golf. He invites students from elementary schools to come and explore the game, treating the kids and their teachers to lunch with ice cream to follow. Jamie’s class has been the beneficiary of these invitations on multiple occasions, students most people wouldn’t associate with the game of golf. Rick keeps the day filled with fun games and loves the opportunity to connect with the students and teachers.
In 2014, Rick’s knees required replacing. He postponed the surgery to attend the Wild Card game against Oakland with his wife.
“The 2014 Wild Card game was, by far, the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” says the man who has attended The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on 16 different occasions.
“When we were 5 runs down, I told my wife that all we had to do was get a couple of runs and we could do it. I’ve since watched Perez get that hit a million times and every single time I think Josh Donaldson is going to catch it. After the game the fans wouldn’t leave. The whole stadium was notified via intercom that a storm was on the way. Of course, the natural thought was they just wanted us to leave. But they were right. By the time we got to the car it was pouring.”
Two weeks after having his knees replaced, Rick attended Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
“My wife wheeled me through the K in a wheelchair. I wasn’t going to miss it.”
Rumor has it that people who utter the name of a certain San Francisco southpaw in Rick’s presence are forbidden from ever playing golf at Rivercut Golf Course.
In 2015, Rick bought tickets to Game 7 of the World Series.
“They weren’t needed.”
His favorite Royals player is George Brett, naturally, and his favorite golfers include Payne Stewart, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Bobby Jones.
On the way to school this morning, I told all the riders in the Bryan Family Millennium Falcon to keep their eyes and ears open in search of miracles. When Rick told me the story of how he came to play 54 holes at Augusta National, I knew I had found my miracle story.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll only repeat a small portion of the story, the part after he sat next to Byron Nelson for three hours during the par-three tournament in 1999 and Lord Byron spoke of Rick to his dinner mates that night, “That guy knows what he’s talking about.”
It was all made possible because a complete stranger was generous to Rick, and a little generosity can make miracles happen.
Every morning starts exactly the same way for Rick.
“I begin every day by thinking, ‘Jack Nicklaus is coming in for a golf lesson.’ I want to act and treat others in such a way as if they are Jack Nicklaus.”
Rick has a chapter of the PGA’s HOPE Program at Rivercut — Helping Our Patriots Everywhere. Over several weeks, he helps veterans who suffer from PTSD play golf and have fun.
“It’s all about giving. Giving is what we’re here to do.”
Rick wholeheartedly understood the joy of Catch 365.
“It’s not about baseball any more than what I do is about golf. It’s about connecting with others.”
Rick dressed his best for today’s game of catch; I was quite envious of his Royals slacks. We stepped out in the parking lot since frost covered the grass of the driving range out Rick’s office. Using the glove he always takes with him to games at the K, knuckleballs were thrown and laughs were shared. He told me stories of Mantle and Maris that were good for the soul.
Rick’s dad grew up across the street from Mickey Mantle in Oklahoma and Mickey gave his dad a ball from the 1951 World Series. In the heat of competition in a game of backyard baseball, Rick hit a ball into a bush. He “Sandlott-ed” the Mickey ball and hit into the bush on the next swing.
“I looked through that bush with a flashlight all night. We never found it.”
On October 1, 2017, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar walked off the field for the final time as teammates. Rick was at the game sitting behind a couple wearing jerseys with “Groom” and “Bride” across their backs. They were married at the ball park before the game. Of course, Rick took his glove to the stadium, as would I, and Lorenzo Cain sent a foul ball right at him. The Groom reached up and caught the ball.
“Can you believe it? On his wedding day, he caught a foul ball at the K. He’ll never forget that!”
Time spent with Rick is always memorable and leaves you feeling both encouraged and inspired.
I am most grateful for the gift of his friendship over the years and can only hope that my games of catch with friends new and friends old can begin to echo his generosity.