WAUWATOSA – Two of Wisconsin’s best players from 1993 through 2006 and one of the state’s most popular and accomplished club professionals were inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame during a star-studded banquet Saturday night at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club.
“Wow, what an honor,” said Ben Walter, a three-time State Open champion who led the University of Wisconsin to back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1993 and 1994.
Walter entered the Hall of Fame with left-hander Ryan Quinn of Galesville, the only golfer to win back-to-back State Amateur titles (2001-2002) during the stroke play era, and Erin Hills ambassador Rich Tock, whose resume is filled with accomplishments in all facets of the game.
“I wish I still had my old tenacity,” said Quinn, 41, who lives in Bloomington, Ill., where he is a claims representative for State Farm Insurance. “It wasn’t always pretty, but nobody wanted to win more than I did.”
In addition to his State Amateur titles, Quinn had a near-miss in his bid for a third consecutive championship at Blue Mound in 2003 and was a WIAA champion at Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau High School and an NCAA Division III Championship runner-up at UW-Eau Claire.
In 2001, he swept the WSGA Best-ball title (with partner Paul Williamson), the WSGA Match Play title (thrashing Joe Leonard, 6 and 5, in the final) and the State Am at Eau Claire Country Club. He remains the only golfer who has won those three titles in a calendar year.
Quinn turned professional and won three times on the Dakotas Tour. He twice made it to the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and missed the final stage one year by one shot.
“He may be the best left-handed golfer ever to come out of Wisconsin,” said Gene Haas, retired executive director of the Wisconsin State Golf Association, which hosted the induction ceremony.
Walter, 48, a Menomonie native and now a residential real estate agent in Phoenix / Scottsdale, also had a sterling playing record.
He won the Big Ten individual title in 1994, opening 65-65 and setting the conference’s 36- and 54-hole scoring records. While at Wisconsin, he won the Ray Fischer 72-hole Amateur Championship and was the 1993 WSGA Player of the Year.
Walter 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 recently was inducted into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame and credited former Badgers coach Dennis Tiziani for much of his success.
“I got my undergraduate degree at Wisconsin,” Walter said, “and I got my master’s in golf at Cherokee (Country Club).”
Tock, 69, a member of the Wisconsin PGA Section for more than 40 years, has been an excellent player, a highly regarded teacher, a former president of the WPGA Section, a volunteer on numerous committees, a mentor to countless young pros and a tireless promoter of the game.
“Rich has been the ultimate promoter, not like P.T. Barnum but kind of like him,” joked Tock’s presenter, longtime section pro Jim Thompson.
Tock, in his typical exuberant style, brought down the house several times during his acceptance speech and was accorded a standing ovation.
In congratulating Walter and Quinn, the 26-time Nelthorpe Cup participant said, “I competed against them many times. I never lost. I should probably point out they were in grade school at the time.”
The inductions of Walter, Quinn and Tock bring to 96 the number of members of the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame.