Ex-College QB Ragsdale Benefits From Mid-Amateur Audible October 3, 2015 | Vero Beach, Fla. By David Shefter, USGA

Former Redlands QB Daniel Ragsdale discovered golf several years after being the 1999 NCAA Division III Player of the Year. (USGA/Scott A. Miller)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

As a former NCAA Division III All-America quarterback, Daniel Ragsdale knows a thing or two about calling an audible. To get into the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur, the 38-year-old got the change in game plan he needed on Sept. 25 in the form of a phone call from the USGA.

When 2012 Mid-Amateur runner-up Garrett Rank withdrew, Ragsdale, the first alternate from his San Luis Obispo, Calif., qualifying site, received the spot. It definitely reduced the sting of his qualifying performance.

“I was 7 under in the qualifier and made two doubles coming in and then choked in the [3-for-2] playoff,” said Ragsdale, who won the 1999 Gagliardi Trophy, the Division III equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, as a senior at the University of Redlands in California. “I had a really good summer, so it was really disappointing. I had a four-shot lead. So obviously, I’m thrilled to be here.”  

Ragsdale made the most of his reprieve in the first round of stroke play on Saturday, carding a 1-over 73 on the West Course at the John’s Island Club.

Ragsdale didn’t even play golf until seven years ago. A fraternity brother at Redlands bought him a set of clubs during his senior year (1999-2000), and he dabbled in the game. But football continued to occupy his time as he went on to play five professional seasons in both the Arena Football League and Indoor Football League. He was accepted to graduate school at Stanford in 2004, so he contacted football coach Buddy Teevens about a job.

Over the phone and without ever meeting Ragsdale in person, Teevens offered him a graduate-assistant position that not only paid his tuition, but also $45,000.

“I was the first graduate assistant at Stanford in like seven years,” he said. “[Buddy] told me nobody is smart enough to get into Stanford and yet dumb enough to want to coach football.”

Stanford started 4-1 that season with Trent Edwards at quarterback, but after a tough home loss to eventual national champions USC, the Cardinal finished with seven consecutive defeats. Teevens was fired, and although new coach Walt Harris offered him a position on the staff, Ragsdale opted to take an offensive coordinator’s job at Division II Minnesota-Duluth. In 2005, the Bulldogs, who had gone winless the year before Ragsdale’s arrival, won the conference title and lost to North Dakota in the Division II playoffs.

By 2007, Ragsdale, of Oak Park, Calif., had tired of the coaching profession. Married with a young daughter, he decided to start a business in his native Southern California. But he needed something to fuel his competitive fire, so he turned to golf and in three years, his game was good enough to qualify for the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur.

“I can’t play basketball because every time I do, I break an ankle,” said Ragsdale, who works in the insurance industry.

On the course, the old quarterback in him comes back. When he three-putted his final hole on Saturday, Ragsdale said it was like throwing an interception.

“[The finish] was disappointing after a good [first] nine,” he said. “I think I missed seven putts inside 14 feet. I am going to be hitting some balls on the driving range and practicing 15-footers.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.