Rich Tock has been the consummate PGA professional for more than 40 years, building a reputation in Wisconsin as one of the state’s most well-rounded and popular pros.
He has been an excellent player, a highly regarded teacher, a former president of the Wisconsin PGA Section, a volunteer on numerous committees, an innovator, a mentor to countless young pros and a tireless promoter of the game.
The highlight of his long and distinguished career?
That’s an easy one. It was the phone call he received Wednesday night from Mike Stolz, chairman of the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame selection committee. Stolz was calling to inform the 68-year-old Tock that he had been elected for induction into the Hall.
“I am so thrilled you can’t believe it,” said Tock, the golf ambassador at Erin Hills. “I was out with my general manager, Andy Bush. He wanted to play five or six holes and have dinner and ‘Stolzie’ calls me and I couldn’t talk. I was in tears for 10 or 15 minutes.
“I said, ‘I’m sorry, Andy, I can’t talk.’ Nothing came out. I finally just went into my office and bawled like a baby.”
One year after the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame had no new inductees for the first time since 1998, the selection committee elected Tock, three-time State Open champion Ben Walter and back-to-back State Amateur champion Ryan Quinn.
The three will be inducted at a dinner later this year.
Walter, 49, a Menomonie native and now a residential real estate agent in Phoenix / Scottsdale, had a sterling playing record.
He was a member of back-to-back Big Ten championship teams at the University of Wisconsin in 1993 and 1994 and won the individual title in ’94, opening 65-65 and setting the conference 36- and 54-hole scoring records.
While in college, he won the Ray Fischer 72-Hole Amateur Championship and was the 1993 Wisconsin State Golf Association amateur player of the year.
He played on the Canadian Tour from 1996 to 1999, finishing in the top 10 on the Order of Merit in 1998, and played in the Greater Milwaukee Open three times.
He won the State Open in 1994, 1997 and 2005. He’s perhaps best remembered for the 1997 tournament, when he went head-to-head with Steve Stricker – by then a two-time winner on the PGA Tour – and came out on top.
“Probably, because of what an incredible career Steve’s had, a lot of people have mentioned ‘he beat Stricker’ and that’s pretty cool,” Walter said. “I’m proud of all of it. The Big Ten was special. When I won it individually it was our second team title. I remember parts of it like it was yesterday.”
Walter said he hasn’t competed in a tournament since the 2012 State Open. He regained his amateur status two years ago.
“As recently as the beginning of the year, I was going to practice and compete in some amateur events,” he said. “I just haven’t done it. I don’t know. I’m working for a living. So, at this point, the phone call that I had been elected to the Hall of Fame was out of the blue. It’s just super-gratifying.”
Quinn, 41, a left-hander from Galesville, had an incredible six-year run from 1998 to 2003.
During that span, he never finished lower than 11th in the State Amateur and won the title in 2001 and 2002 – the first and still only back-to-back winner since the tournament went to stroke play in 1971.
He nearly won a third consecutive State Am in 2003, finishing runner-up to Brian Brodell at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club.
“I guess one of the things I’m probably most proud about my WSGA career is my record in the State Am,” Quinn said. “I feel like that was a tournament I always tried to peak at.”
A three-time U.S. Amateur qualifier, Quinn made it to the round of 16 in 2003.
Quinn also was a top collegiate golfer at UW-Eau Claire, finishing second in the 1999 NCAA Division III Championship and fourth two years later. He won 11 college tournaments.
“Really, I’m just kind of blown away, to be honest with you,” he said of his election into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame. “I always thought it might be a possibility but getting that phone call and it being a reality just means a lot.”
Tock was elected based on the diverse and numerous contributions he has made to the game.
An excellent player, he competed in 22 PGA of America National Club Professional Championships and eight Senior Club Professional Championships, won the Wisconsin State Senior Open in 2005, played on 26 Nelthorpe Cup teams and competed in the U.S. Senior Open in 2002.
He also is a two-time WPGA professional of the year and a two-time assistant professional of the year, and was the state PGA teacher of the year in 1990 and the National Ping Club Fitter of the Year in 2000.
Tock got his start at South Hills Golf & Country Club in Fond du Lac and was the longtime professional at Ozaukee CC in Mequon before taking the job at Erin Hills.
“All the things I have been involved in, you don’t do that for rewards,” Tock said. “You play golf because you love it. You might win a couple tournaments. I never worked on my game because I had head pro jobs. The Horton Smith Award, teacher of the year, that happens. You don’t plan it. And you definitely don’t plan on the Hall of Fame.
“That was a shock. It has been quite the 24 hours.”