It was the perfect match. Randy Syring found a career he was not only extremely good at, but has enjoyed pursuing for nearly 40 years.

Being widely recognized for his work was an unexpected bonus.

The former head professional at Salina Country Club, Syring has been selected for induction in the Kansas Golf Hall of Fame. His induction banquet will take place tonight at SCC, where most of his contributions to the sport have taken place.

 

“It is quite an honor but it is also very humbling,” Syring said. “I’m honored to be mentioned in the same group as the other Hall of Fame inductees, from Tom Watson to Rusty Hilst to Bill Knox. Those are giants in the game of golf in Kansas.

“To just be mentioned in the same conversation as those people is an honor. Especially when I feel like pretty much all I did was just go to work every day. To get to do what I love and be honored for it, it makes me feel fortunate and blessed.”

Syring becomes the 45th member of the Kansas Golf Hall of Fame and joins, among others, Wally Beets, his mentor at SCC. Syring replaced Beets as SCC head pro in 1988 and later nominated Beets, who was selected for induction in 2002.

As he prepares for his own induction, Syring knows many of the people who helped him achieve this honor will be present for tonight’s ceremony.

“I’ve received phone calls and cards from former members, former employees and former students,” Syring said. “That has been a trip down memory lane.

“It has honestly made me even more reflective and appreciative of my career and all the good people I’ve had in my life all of those years. The room will be full of people that have all had an influence on me, so being able to share the evening with them will be very special.”

 

'I love to teach'

Syring’s family moved to Salina when he was 8 years old and he later played his high school golf at Salina South. He went to work at Salina Country Club for the first time while still in high school, working in the bag room in 1974.

He studied at Marymount College and played for the Spartans, but still had a year of college remaining when the position of assistant golf pro at SCC came open in 1980.

“To the absolute dismay of my mother, I took it with still one year of college left,” said Syring, who later, after Marymount closed its doors, earned his degree at Friends.

Syring took over as head golf professional at Salina Country Club on January 1, 1988, and held that position for exactly 30 years. On January 1 of this year, his title changed from head professional to director of golf at SCC, and he also assumed the head coaching duties for both the Kansas Wesleyan men’s and women’s golf teams.

Life as a course professional all those years meant long hours at the course, but not necessarily on the course.

“You aren’t playing much golf,” Syring said. “You are at the golf course all day, but you’re not playing much golf. At least not if you are doing your job.

“I had no complaints. I love to teach. It’s not that I didn’t want to be out playing golf periodically, but an opportunity to give a lesson and help someone with their game, I always welcomed.”

 

Accomplished instructor

Although Syring handled much of the day-to-day operations for the course, he became recognized as one of the top golf instructors in the state of Kansas during the past three decades.

A lengthy list of previous honors includes being named Midwest PGA Teacher of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and the Midwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year in 2004. A year ago this month he was inducted into the Midwest Section PGA Hall of Fame.

Salina’s Grant Herrenbruck, now a freshman with the University of Kansas golf program, is one of the many local golfers who have benefitted from Syring’s guidance.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better person or mentor to teach me the fundamentals of golf,” Herrenbruck said. “His golf IQ in general is amazing and it’s not just about the swing. He’s everything you could ask for in a teacher on the course or off.

“I can credit him with any success I’ve had. He’s known my swing since I was 11 and  I have never gone to him with a problem and not gotten an answer or a fix. Every problem I’ve had, he has had a solution.”

Salina’s Kevin Quinley has been taking lessons from Syring for more than half of his life and agrees Syring’s ability to get his message across is a key to his success as a teacher.

“His overall understanding of the game of golf, both the physical and mental side of it, is so good,” Quinley said. “He can communicate it in a way that will really sink in.

“I’ve heard other guys giving lessons, maybe to a beginner and you can tell there is no way what they are saying is going to sink in with that player.”

Syring’s desire to help others improve their game was initially self-serving. Playing golf in the mid-'70s, he saw the progress of former Salinan Bryan Norton and wanted to be playing at that level. To this day Norton is still among the top competitors in Kansas golf.

“Working (at SCC) and getting to play golf with Bryan, it was hard for me to understand why I was practicing hard and Bryan was still beating me every day,” Syring said. “I had to figure it out. Why was his golf swing better than mine and what do I need to get better at.

“In the beginning it was more of a personal thing, but later, the first year I was an assistant for Wally and got to start giving some lessons, I quickly found that I thoroughly enjoyed helping people with their games. At the end of the day that’s what I looked back on and enjoyed the most."

 

Lasting impression

Syring gives much of the credit for his style of teaching to Beets. He also admits to being a voracious reader of books related to golf and the seemingly endless variety of schools on how to improve one’s game. He attended seminars and clinics to improve his skills as a teacher, and now is asked to contribute at those clinics with thoughts on his own success.

But Syring also knew the importance of making anyone and everyone feel welcome when they visited Salina Country Club, whether they were a longtime member or a first-time visitor.

“Wally taught me from Day 1 that everybody that walks through the door deserves to be treated with respect and kindness,” Syring said. “Whether they walked in wearing overalls or a suit, they got treated the same way. On the lesson tee it didn’t matter if they were a 30-handicapper or a scratch player, he gave it his all.

“I know I got just as much enjoyment helping a 30-handicapper get down to a 25 as I did a high school or college player become the best player on their team or win a tournament. I loved it when a member would come in after a round and say ‘Thank you. I really played good today. That lesson really helped.’”

“So much of my life in general and big decisions I’ve made have revolved around golf,” Quinley said. “Anywhere I’ve gotten in golf, I 100 percent owe to Randy.

“Where I went to school and the trips I’ve taken because of golf, and now having a competitive outlet at age 30, are all directly correlated to Randy Syring. I owe a lot to the guy.”

Being the head golf pro for 30 years often meant some long hours, particularly during the early years when Syring felt the pressure to continue what Beets had established. Although that may have taken time from his family, Syring said it was that same family that proved to be his biggest supporters.

Randy and his wife Susie have two daughters, Megan and Kaitlyn, and two granddaughters.

“My mom and my dad played a big part and my grandfather was a huge influence in my life,” Syring said. “He managed a grain elevator and was a cattle rancher, and the man worked tirelessly and still found time to spend with me and the other grandkids.

“But Susie is really the one that is the foundation for me being able to do what I did for a career. It is hard to put in 70 hours a week and still be a husband and father, but she made it work and had her own career as a teacher. She sacrificed a lot.”

 

'Grateful'

Although his responsibilities at SCC have changed considerably in the past 12 months, Syring plans to keep teaching golf as long as he can. His duties at Kansas Wesleyan include recruiting, but the chance to work with young golfers who want to improve fits perfectly into his love of the game.

And tonight, for one night at least, he’ll have a chance to thank many of the people that helped him get to this point.

“All I feel right now is just gratitude,” Syring said. “I was so lucky to be a part of the game and a part of Salina Country Club.

“I’m just very grateful for all the good things that have happened, including this event (tonight).”