Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 240 pounds his freshman year, Charlie Rymer looked like a natural for the Fort Mill High football team about 30 years ago.
“Nope,” Eddie Weldon, his coach, said, “Your future is in golf.”
If a coach ever called his shot, Weldon did. Rather than football, Rymer excelled in golf, and his career received another highlight Saturday with his induction into the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame in Golf Day ceremonies at Columbia Country Club.
A native of Cleveland, Tenn., who grew up in Fort Mill, Rymer dominated the South Carolina junior golf scene in the mid-1980s before earning All-America honors at Georgia Tech and playing on the PGA Tour. He moved from playing competitively to broadcasting golf in 1998, and has been a fixture on the Golf Channel since 2008.
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Reflecting on his playing career, Rymer likes to recall his victory in the 1985 U.S. Junior Amateur and said, “Any USGA championship is very special.” Always quick with a quip, he added, “But that makes me feel old. That was 30 years ago.”
He got his start in golf playing with his family in Tennessee and fell in love with the game. Using pull carts to carry clubs, he and his grandparents would go out late on summer afternoons to play nine holes “and I would cry because we played only nine holes,” Rymer said. “That’s my first memory of golf. After that, I would eat, sleep and play golf.”
The memory of his first birdie is as clear as yesterday: He hit a cut-down MacGregor 3 1/2-wood from 150 yards to 10 inches and made the putt. “Four ladies were still on the green,” he said.
His family moved to Fort Mill during his elementary school years and he quickly made a name for himself on the South Carolina golf scene. A big trophy he brought home from a tournament win in Newberry convinced his father that Charlie “had a future” in golf.
Rymer won multiple individual state high school championships, and he won the State Junior three times. He earned Carolinas player of the year honors in 1985 and played on numerous all-star teams. At Georgia Tech, he won five collegiate tournaments.
In the 1985 U.S. Junior Amateur in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence, N.Y., he faced future LSU and PGA Tour player Greg Lesher in the match-play final. Rymer led by three holes early, but Lesher rallied and opened a 2-up lead with two holes to play.
“I was on the wrong side of dormie,” Rymer said.
But he birdied the 17th to cut the deficit and won the 18th with a par to square the match and claimed the title on the first playoff hole.
After college, he played mini-tours early in his professional golf days before making the PGA Tour from 1995-97. But he failed to keep his playing privileges and missed advancing from qualifying school by one stroke. “I was like a dog chasing his tail,” he said, “but golf was all I had ever done.”
Facing reality, he pondered his future and remembers meeting Gary McCord on the practice tee at the Hootie and the Blowfish Monday after the Masters.
“He asked me what I was going to do, and we talked a while,” Rymer said. “Then, he asked, why don’t you do TV? You’re an idiot; you qualify for TV.”
The combination of Rymer and television clicked, and golf is still his life. His friendship with golf broadcasters led to an audition, and he worked with CBS, ABC, ESPN and the USA Network prior to joining the Golf Channel. He remains active in promoting junior golf.
He and wife Carol and their two sons live in Orlando, Fla.
Others honored at Golf Day: Matt NeSmith (player of the year); Rick Cloninger (senior player of the year); Spring Valley Country Club (club of the year); Tommy and Susan Jordan (the Charles Drawdy Distinguished Service Award to volunteers who go above and beyond expectations); Monday After the Masters board (Tom Fazio Service to Golf); and SCGA staffers Kirk Page (5 years), James Park (10 years) and Chris Miller (15 years). ... Christian Salzer (Sumter, junior boys) and Ashley Czarnecki (Greenville, junior girls) earned Carolinas Golf Association player of the year awards in their respective categories.