The first tangible signal that young Richard Sirmon was destined for a lifetime
love affair with the game of golf came at age 3 when he appeared in a grainy black-and-white family photograph wearing a cockeyed Ben Hogan cap and toting a small
single-club golf bag on his right shoulder. The year was 1951.
Four years later, the same kid could be seen busily working at a “picking-uprocks
picnic" at Cullman’s new municipal golf course, helping prepare the greens
for the course’s grand opening. It was the same summer he started playing the
game. More than 60 years later, he hasn’t stopped yet.
In 1958, Rick Sirmon and his family relocated to Huntsville and moved into a
house adjacent to the 5th tee at Huntsville Country Club. It was the perfect location
for the two avid golfing parents, George and Virginia, and for their son and two
daughters. From then on, it was a rare day when young Sirmon wasn’t patrolling
the nearby fairways and greens.
As time went by, it was obvious to the parents that they were raising a golf
prodigy. As a 9th grader at Westlawn in 1963, Sirmon was medalist at the Monrovia
course in the City Jaycee Tournament, tying for second with his best friend, Elvis Larkin. He won the same tournament the
following year as a 10th grader, and then tied for second in the State Jaycee tournament with a promising young player
from Birmingham, Hubert Green, who later won 28 tournaments on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 U.S. Open and the
1985 PGA. Sirmon placed second in the 1964 State high school tournament. That performance convinced his golf coach at
Butler, Glynn Stowe, and his principal, J. Homer Crim, that this kid was something special and needed to practice as much
as possible. So together, Crim and Stowe worked out a unique arrangement. For his last two years at Butler, Ricky Sirmon
would combine lunch, study hall and PE and leave school every day at 11:30 a.m., allowing him to hone his golf game at
Huntsville Country Club from early afternoon until dark.
Obviously, Sirmon made the most of it. In 1965, he won the 3-day City Junior, shooting a stunning 65 the final round. As
his reward, Sirmon was picked to caddy for Arnold Palmer when came to town in September of ’65 for an exhibition match
at the Municipal Golf Course. Hundreds of spectators came out to see golf’s most famous superstar. “That day might’ve the
most exciting thing that ever happened to me," Sirmon remembered years later. “I was in ‘golf heaven.’ "
After high school, Sirmon walked on at the University of Alabama, was quickly awarded a scholarship, became a 4-year
letterman from 1967-71 and a co-captain, made All-SEC as a junior, and represented Alabama in the NCAA Tournament
in Columbus, Ohio. Looking back at his college career, Sirmon said: “The thing I’m most proud of is never missing a single
practice or match and traveling to every team tournament over four years."
After college, Sirmon established himself as one of the finest amateur golfers in the history of the state. He won men’s
invitational tournaments in Lawrenceburg, Pulaski, and Fayetteville in Tennessee and Decatur, Vestavia, Woodward, Inverness,
and Pine Tree (twice) in Alabama. He won club championships in Huntsville and Birmingham. Four times, and finished in
the top 10 in the prestigious State Amateur. In 1975, he won the Alabama Open at Inverness in Birmingham, closing with a
66 and beating Steve Lyles, the golf pro at Willow Point in Alex City, by one shot. “Steve got a $2,000 check," said Sirmon.
“I got a $250 gift certificate and a desire to try to get a PGA card."
He tried twice over the next two years to win a card, competing each time over six days for one of 20 spots against a
field of 420 players, first in Brownsville, Texas, and later at Pinehurst in North Carolina. “I came up short the first time, but
so did Curtis Strange. I came up short the second time, too, but this time Curtis made it." Strange went on to win 17 PGA
tournaments, including back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988-89. Rick Sirmon returned to his “real life job," working at BellSouth
in Birmingham from 1973 until his retirement in 2003. He now plays “friendly golf" at his home course, Hoover County Club.
In his last competitive event, he finished second behind Sam Farlow in the Alabama Senior Amateur in 2006, whereupon he
was selected for the 12-man Alabama-Georgia-Florida Ryder Cup team.
Sirmon and his wife, Cindy, live in Indian Springs/Pelham.
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