Golf was at the center of his life during his college days at Cornell and he has since turned the sport into his profession. Now Rick Lipsey wants to help turn kids in Bhutan into good golfers and better people.
Rick Lipsey said that when he last checked, Cornell had yet to name a building after him. But the 1989 graduate hasn't given up.
Lipsey -- who began playing golf at the age of five -- was introduced to the game by his parents and grandparents on a visit to Florida. Equipped with a set of starter golf clubs, young Rick learned the game that continues to shape his life.
But it was his academic interests, rather than golf, that brought him to Cornell. As he says, "Going to Ithaca to golf is like going to Hawaii to play hockey."
Lipsey first thought that he wanted to be an architect and chose Cornell for its nationally ranked program. But after matriculating, he soon changed his major to English. The switch would later help him in his career as a sports writer.
Lipsey -- who saw golfing as more enjoyable than demanding -- found his athletic commitments spared him from wasting time and he believes that sports led to his success at Cornell. "High level athletics inspires high level academics," he said. Lipsey added that his overall Cornell experience "was as good as any time."
Lipsey's most memorable moments in college athletics did not occur on the golf course. As with many Cornell grads, he couldn't say enough about his time at Lynah Rink, the home of the famed Big Red ice hockey team. He had attended the school at the same time as hockey icons Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Schafer, now Cornell's head coach.
After school, Lipsey applied for just about every job he could find. A lifelong caddy, he was sure that the time had come to settle down and work in an office. He landed a job with the magazine Golf Illustrated, where he worked for two years. His work there led first to an editorial job with Golf Pro Merchandiser and eventually to his current job as a golf writer for Sports Illustrated.
Lipsey and his wife, Carrie Cohen, a former junior varsity lacrosse player for the Big Red, traveled to the Himalayas on vacation and fell in love with the area. Researching the region further after they returned, they discovered Bhutan, a small country that was considered a hidden jewel for travel. The pair set up a trip and while in Bhutan visited the country's only golf course, a nine-hole track. Approached by some members of the club, Lipsey was asked if he would be their golf pro.
"Apparently, I was better than the instructional DVDs they had been using," he said. "I said yes, but I jokingly said yes. They took me seriously."
After the club approved its new golf pro, Lipsey, his wife and children spent the next three-and-a-half months in Bhutan. While they went with the intent of teaching the adults, Lipsey soon began to instruct children who had an interest in the game. Lipsey worked with Callaway to sell some of its equipment at the club to help fund a golf program for the children of Bhutan. Soon afterwards, the Bhutan Youth Golf Association was created.
Four years later, the youth program is doing very well. In January 2007, some of the young golfers will travel to Calcutta for their first Championship, the Asian Junior Masters. According to Lipsey, golf teaches the children honesty, integrity and hard work. While he does not expect greatness from each child, he notes that Vijay Singh, a native of Fiji, proves that early limitations in childhood do not hinder potential success.
Currently living in New York, Lipsey still keeps a close connection to Cornell. He sits on the executive committee for Cornell's alumni magazine and also interviews high school seniors for the admissions office. You can still find Lipsey at hockey games, cheering loudly against whomever the Big Red might be playing that night.
In a 2003 interview, Lipsey talked about loving Cornell, but noted, "No buildings are named after me."
Yet his impact is stretching far above Cayuga's waters.
— Bethany Karantonis