Former Alabama golfer Dicky Pride has overcome difficulties to continue on the professional circuit.
Dicky Pride, who played at Alabama 1989-92, has endured not only returns to qualifying school to regain his PGA Tour eligibility but some serious health issues. During the 2002 season he required intravenous feeding through a tube for two and a half months due to an attack of pancreatitis and removal of his gall bladder. The near death experience galvanized his appreciation for life.
We spoke to Pride in Cromwell, Conn., while he was practicing on the putting greens and driving range in between rounds at the Travelers Championship.
The late Dick Pride, Dickey's father, was an Alabama golfer (1957-59), then served as golf coach at Alabama from 1961-64. You would think the son of a former University of Alabama golf coach and nationally-prominent amateur player, was destined to follow in his dad's footsteps. But Dicky's path was not certain as he expresses the ambivalence felt during those early days at The Capstone.
"I took a little different path than most," he said. "The biggest thing is that when I was in college I finally figured out that I really wanted to play golf for me and not because of anything else. For a long time I played because my perception was that I had to play golf because of my father. It wasn't the perception. I played every sport that you could (basketball, football). But that's the way I thought and after my freshmen year in college (as a walk-on) I figured out it wasn't anything to do with my father being a golfer. I realized I really like this game and I wanted to play well."
Learning to love the game was a gradual awakening process for Pride as he entered college. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," he said. "I stopped playing for about ten months. When I stopped playing I was completely burnt out. I had played for about six weeks in a row in tournaments driving all around the state and the southeast. I was just wiped out. I just said forget it. I wasn't having any success and I was upset. Then it came to me that I have to go do this."
Pride recalls some of his mentors who paved the way for his growth in the game. "Obviously my Dad taught me the game and taught me a lot about the game. After that another University of Alabama graduate, Todd Anderson, who started teaching me when I was in college. We worked for about twelve years together. We are still very good friends and he's helped me out a lot. He taught me a lot about the game. We're not really working with each other right now but his influence is very apparent in my game. I won when he was my teacher. He's had a big influence." Anderson was recognized by Golf Magazine as a "Top 100 Teacher" and Golf Digest as one of "America's 50 Greatest Teachers."
The most recognized Alabama golfer of all time is Jerry Pate who keeps a vigilant watch on Pride's game. "Jerry played against my Dad a lot as an amateur," Dicky said. "He is pretty much on me like he should. I keep in touch with him. He keeps a good eye out for me." Pate was United States Amateur champion and United States Open champion (among his PGA wins) and is now on the Champions Tour.
Since 1992 Pride has established a friendship with a legendary golf figure that constantly motivates him as he explains. "I live at Bay Hill in Orlando and Arnold Palmer has been on me day in and day out. Mr. Palmer told me, "Why aren't you playing better? Get out there and hit more balls." He sat down and helped me with a lot of different parts of the game. Alan Pope, who played on the Alabama golf team before me, gave me an application to be a member of Bay Hill. Mr. Palmer let me in and he's helped me ever since."
The short game remains vital to any golfer's success and Pride is cognizant of the impact as he stated, "My putting can feed every other part of my game and help me get to where I want to go. The biggest thing I've worked on this year is my chipping."
Golfers are forever concerned with their emotional state for each shot as one putt or drive can be the difference in capturing a tournament title. Pride strives for steadfast adherence to a particular mindset as he said, "The old cliché is you take it one shot at a time. Make every shot the same level of importance. When I was growing up, I met Dr. Rob Ratella, the sports psychologist, when I was fifteen in Tuscaloosa. I've worked and been friends with him ever since. It's your very basic stuff. I don't have any insight that would prove to be unworldly. I think the biggest thing is you have to have a consistent mental approach. You have to decide this is what I do and I have to do it day in and day out with every situation."
Golf has evolved through the years and Pride acknowledges the changes. "I think golf is moving away from a finesse game. It's more of a hit it as far as you can and go from there situation. When I was brought up, it was hit the fairway, hit the green and then give yourself a chance with a putt. Now it's hit it as far as you possibly can and go from there. I think there are more athletic people playing golf. It's an en vogue sport and you're getting more people playing. I think the equipment is allowing people to do exactly what I said. The ball goes straighter. The clubs are bigger and easier to hit so you can swing harder. It will be interesting to see because it's either going to continue this way or they're going to start setting up golf courses where you can't just do that. Whether they'll do that or not, I don't know because the top players (who hit for distance) are winning the tournaments. If I'm a tournament director, I want Tiger Woods to win my tournament because he's the best player in the world. They (tournament directors) don't control everything. The tour sets up the golf courses but they can set up how the golf course is when the tour gets there."
Pride's opinion of the FedEx point system which is designed to create a golf season with complimentary playoff tournaments remains inconclusive as he said, "The jury is still out if it's good for the (PGA) tour."
Pride is quipster at heart and candid with his remarks. Earning his way back to the 2007 PGA Tour by competing in a 2006 Qualifying Tournament, Pride shared an interesting analogy about the ordeal as he stated, "It's kind of like going to the dentist and pulling teeth. You don't really like doing it but it feels much better when you get it done the right way."
The off season spent in Orlando with his wife Kim, originally from Indiana, consists of working out, practicing and playing with the kids, daughter Isabelle, 7 and son Fletcher, 5.
Golf, unlike most athletic endeavors, requires an even keeled demeanor to comply with the proper etiquette expected from each PGA member but every once in a while an errant shot will evoke an animated response. Even during those infrequent moments, Pride still remembers the importance of connecting with the younger fans as his caddy, Spencer Seifurt of Fairfield, Calif., recalled. "I've seen Dicky make a bad shot and be upset with himself yet he will come up behind me and request a golf ball to hand to a youngster in the gallery."
When asked to recount some of the fond memories from his days in Tuscaloosa, Pride replied, "Let's just say when they tore down the DKE house, there were a lot of memories gone (laughing). I remember doing a lot of stuff with my teammates. I graduated the same year as Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell. I got to know a lot of guys that I would not have known except through Bryant Hall and study hall. I can remember being in study hall with Latrell and Robert. That's kind of neat. I remember James Robinson who is a great guy. Dana Dobransky, former UA gymnast, married my cousin Joe (Duckworth). I have a lot of good relationships from Tuscaloosa."
Doug Duke, former UA baseball player and now a doctor in Tulsa is one of his best friends who he speaks to all the time. Mike Wiggins is another former baseball player who Pride has befriended.
Among the former UA golfers Pride keeps in contact with are Todd Anderson, Henry Diana, David Kirkpatrick, Jeff Street, Mayson Petty, Chip Deason, Tony Dirico, Jason Bohn, Steve Lowery and Mark Wood. Pride said about his UA golf coach, Dick Spybey, "We had a very good relationship. We keep in touch and I talk to him every now and again."
The honor of donning the crimson and white remains special for Pride as he explained. "Boy that was the biggest thing. I never threw away any of my team uniforms. I still have every one of them. The only piece of jewelry I've ever worn besides my wedding band and watch is my "A" ring. It means the world to me because it's the first thing I ever said I'm going to get it and I did it. It means a lot to me. I don't know where my letterman's jacket is but I definitely wore that around the campus because that's what we did. But that "A" ring stays with me."
Perseverance has been prominent in Pride's life as he has managed his way through physical maladies and golf slumps. His reasons for longevity on the PGA Tour were summed up when he said, "I have improved as a golfer and I've never been afraid to work to get what I want."
Although his career has occasionally simulated the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride, Pride has accumulated winnings of almost $3 million since turning professional in 1992. All in all, that's a fair sum of money for a once reluctant cow pasture pool shooter.
Happy 38th Birthday Richard Fletcher "Dicky" Pride! Born July 15, 1969
Editor's Note: A.P. Steadham is a features writer for ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com. He concentrates on former Crimson Tide athletes.