Sunshine State Standout

He has qualified for more than two dozen USGA championships and has been a regular participant in the British Senior Amateur since 2005, finishing second once and in the top 10 five times.

Out of college, he received several unforgettable and demonstrative reasons as to why he shouldn’t try to play professionally and more recently he was talked out of trying to qualify for the PGA Tour Champions, too. And late last year he was frozen – literally – out of a chance to play Augusta National.

Such are the ups and downs – mostly ups – in the golfing life of Rick Woulfe, a Fort Lauderdale-based civil trial lawyer who specializes in defending medical professionals.

A native of the metropolitan New York area who has lived in South Florida since moving here with his family in 1957, Woulfe, 70, has won some three dozen significant amateur tournaments, including at least 14 championships conducted by the Florida State Golf Association.

Picking favorite victories likely would be impossible, if not unfair to the others, but the two Society of Seniors championships, in 2006 and 2014, both at Quail Ridge in Boynton Beach, should rank right up there. Also, Woulfe began competing in the Coleman invitational in 1992 and won the senior division in 2006.

“I played golf at Michigan State University,” Woulfe recalled recently, “and the summer after graduation (in the late 1960s) a group of us went out and played in every (amateur) tournament we could find. I thought I played OK but I never won anything. We were competing against the likes of Lanny Wadkins, Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw,” all of whom went on to win at least one major championship.

“I am very proud to have prevailed the past few years over the AARP card holders, Medicare and Social Security recipients.”

Rick Woulfe

Instead, Woulfe went to law school at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, then returned to South Florida and subsequently become (and remains) one of the state’s top amateur golfers. Lago Mar is his home club and he has won the club championship there an astounding 24 times.

One of the most-talked-about achievements of his career came in 1992, when he won the Dixie Amateur.

In the semifinal, on Christmas Eve, he defeated 16-year-old Tiger Woods, 4 and 3. Woods was here for a teen phenom South Florida swing, heading from the Dixie to the Junior Orange Bowl (where he was the defending champion) to getting some early pro exposure via an invitation to that year’s Honda Classic.

Woods, 2 down at the turn, said to Woulfe: “Maybe they should have invited you, not me.”

Afterward, Woods told the Sun-Sentinel: “(Woulfe) played awesome, a Nick Faldo kind of game – down the middle, on the green close and making the putts.”

Woods had not yet had his “Hello, world” moment, but his ability was clear.

“That kid is some talent,” Woulfe said at the time.

They both know how to win.

In 2006, Woulfe was the FSGA Player of the Year in both the Amateur and Senior divisions. For the record, here’s a summary of his state Player of the Year citations:

  • Amateur, 2002, ’04 and ’06;
  • Senior, 2005-08, 2010-12 (he won the 2012 FSGA Mid-Am at age 62) and 2015;
  • Super Senior, 2019.

Woulfe started 2019 by finishing third in the Super-Senior Amateur Championship and second in the Senior Amateur Championship on back-to-back weekends.

In September, he finished second with Joe Shaktman at the Senior Four-Ball, then finished the year with a seventh-place finish at the Mid-Amateur Stroke Play. He took home his player of the year award Nov. 22 at the FSGA’s Annual Meeting and Dinner.

Woulfe started thinking about the Senior Tour when he was 48, he says, but after talking to several of his peers who had been there and done that, it became an easy decision for Rick and his wife, Susan, a Delta Airlines flight attendant since 1976, to forget about it. “A lot of them told us though the money is good, it’s not always a fun time,” Woulfe said.

“I am very proud to have prevailed the past few years over the AARP card holders, Medicare and Social Security recipients,” Woulfe added with a wry smile. “I enjoy competing and being part of this group of great, talented and fun-loving golfers.”

Recently his two sons, both in their 30s, tried to pull off a surprise for their dad by arranging for an invitation to play Augusta National, working through proper channels to ensure they would have the opportunity to be part of Rick’s foursome, including Fred Ridley of Tampa, the chairman of Augusta National, and Charlie Yates, a longtime board member, both friends of Rick.

But when November came and it was time to go play, Yates called to say temperatures in the low to mid-30s were forecast for the next several mornings and suggested they wait until February … not that there are any warm weather guarantees then, either.

“Yes, I’ve been to the Masters twice, for a Thursday round one year and a practice day another time,” Woulfe says, “but I have never played there.

“That first trip to Augusta National is certainly a ‘Wow’ moment for anyone.

“And they are right when they say television can’t do the course justice. On a flat screen, it’s impossible to see how steep some of those hills are … up the ninth fairway, the sharp drops to the 10th and 11th greens.

For Rick Woulfe, one the most accomplished amateur golfers in this state’s history, his next “wow moment” should come this month, weather permitting.

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