In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sunday in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Toledo native Ron Frederick, a 2002 inductee into the Professional Putters Association Hall of Fame.
Ron Frederick took a turn as one of the best putters in the country.
In the 1980s, Frederick, a 1978 Whitmer grad, was a star on the PPA Tour. He won national match-play titles in 1982 and 1987, and a national medal-play title in 1988. In 1990, the PPA named him Putter of the Decade.
Frederick first started playing seriously in junior high at the Alexis Road Putt-Putt course. He competed as an amateur throughout high school, and turned pro in 1979.
Frederick's biggest check came when he won the 1982 PPA National Match Play Championship and took home a $22,000 prize. It was the summer before his senior year at Ohio State. That year he was named PPA Putter of the Year.
He played on the PPA Skins game on TV twice, in 1983 and 1988. In 1988 he won the National Medal-Play Championship in Knoxville, Tenn., shooting a 64-under par. He considers the title his greatest accomplishment. By the end of the decade Frederick had won more than $50,000.
Because of family and work obligations, Frederick competes about once a year now. At the ProPutters.com Classic last year in Richmond, Va., Frederick scored a record 89 in the 72-hole tournament. He lost in an 18-hole playoff.
Frederick, who turns 45 today, lives with his wife and two children in Chandler, Ariz.
"WHEN I FIRST started, I'd play from the beginning of April until late October or early November. I was out there all the time. I'd be dropped off when they opened and picked up when they closed. I wasn't as interested in team sports. I guess I could see my progress a lot better in individual sports.
"The Putt-Putt TV show would come on TV every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the summer right before the baseball game of the week. It was a habit for me to watch. I identified with what they were doing. Seeing it from a distance I was thinking, wow, this is amazing.
"IT'S ALWAYS BEEN about the person who prepares the best. Basically anybody who's become a top notch player on the PPA Tour got there by having some point in their life where they practiced a lot. They had to develop the basic skill of putting. At the national championships, there are anywhere from 70 to 90 players. Probably less than 20 have a chance of winning. Once you have those basic skills you're fine. Now I don't have to practice prior to going to a tournament. On the course I have to spend a lot of hours getting myself comfortable hitting the ball again and getting my fundamentals back in tune. I know how to learn the course and once I learn, I can make the holes that I couldn't make otherwise.
"I'VE GOT A STANCE that immediately puts me in the same position regardless of how long I've been away. That's why I can be competitive at these national championships. Tiger Woods is probably the best putter in the world, but he doesn't do that stance, and so he has to continually practice. I can identify things on tour for why golfers aren't doing well. Sometimes I wish I could get a job with those guys as a putting guru to help them out.
"BACK THEN IT was a lot harder to score low scores. But the carpets have changed. It almost gives you little tracks to the hole. The game's completely changed. It's a lot easier to score. The carpet has thicker fibers and it slows it down. It seems to help the ball go to the same place every time. It dumbs down the game to some extent. The game was always based on skill, and it's still based on skill, but it's now become something where if you hit it hard on the right line, it should be in.
"WE DON'T HAVE Putt-Putt out here. It's basically out East. There's a huge difference between Putt-Putt and miniature golf courses; you can't even compare them. Putt-Putt tried to build it around a game of skill. They patented their hole designs, kept it a fairly standard length. We have miniature golf courses here, but it's not fun for me. I like to compete. I'll go every other year with the kids. I couldn't walk on a Putt-Putt course and have fun without it being a tournament.
"I've retired a few times. I pretty much make it back for the nationals every year and sometimes the other bigger tournaments. The main reason I've stayed with this is the people I have met doing it who have become life-long friends."
Contact Maureen Fulton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160.