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Rick Hrip ’68

When Gavin Smith won the national title in May 2009, he became IUP’s first NCAA individual national champion in golf. But he wasn’t the first IUP golfer to win an individual national championship.

In 1968, Rick Hrip, a Mathematics major from Butler, earned the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) individual title and led IUP to win the national team championship.

Hrip, who was inducted into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997, recently answered questions for an alumnus profile:

What’s your fondest memory of IUP?

Looking back at my four years of college—it’s the four best years of your life. I had a great time here at IUP—superb education, warm friendly atmosphere, and playing on the golf team was wonderful. Bernie Ganley, God rest his soul, was like a father away from home for me. And for the other guys on the golf team, he was a great coach. He took good care of us and watched over us.

As far as the golf team, we were very close. A lot of us lived together through our four years. We had a super team that included four All-American golfers [Terry Eisenhute, Rick Worsham, Dave Prosser, and Hrip]. We all worked hard and enjoyed golf and got a great education. It was a great four years for me personally.

How did IUP influence your life after college?

I think it gave me a great education. I majored in math. I was looking to get into computer science and programming and ended up working, at that time, at what was called United Telephone in Butler.

I worked, I think, six weeks after I graduated in 1968 and then I got drafted and went to Vietnam. I spent nineteen months in the service and thirteen-and-a-half months in Vietnam. Then I went back to working for the phone company.

IUP gave me a great base to be successful. I was very fortunate that United Telephone later became Sprint and then spun off the local division of Sprint to become Embarq. That’s where I retired on December 31, 2008, as vice president of external affairs. It’s interesting because I graduated with a math degree, which is pretty black and white. However, my final responsibilities after forty-plus years of service with Sprint and Embarq included legislative, regulatory, and public affairs for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These responsibilities made my business life full of gray—obviously, far from where I started.

The bottom line is IUP gave me a well-rounded and robust education that provided me the tools to grow and branch out.

Why did you choose IUP initially?

Bernie Ganley was building up the golf team at that time. In fact, I was either going to go to Ohio State or IUP. I had won the WPIAL high school championship out of Butler High School my senior year. Bernie was very interested in getting me to IUP, and my mother, who is no longer with us, loved Bernie. She thought he was a really neat guy. At the time I came in, it was either his second or third year of coaching. He had some really good success early on and had some other guys coming in with me. It turns out I couldn’t have been any happier with my decision.

What are your thoughts on Gavin Smith succeeding you at national championships?

It’s super. I don’t know Gavin, but I know he’s a great golfer.

Back when I played, we just had the NAIA and the NCAA. We didn’t have Division I, II, and III. In fact, we got invited to play in the NCAA Championship in 1967 and 1968, and that was basically made up of Division I schools. In 1967, Hal Irwin won the NCAA individual championship and later won three United States Opens and had a very successful professional career. When I played in the NCAA championship in 1968, a guy named Grier Jones from Oklahoma State won the individual championship. Jones also went on to have a very successful professional career, where he probably won seven or eight tournaments. And then I got selected to play in the 1968 NCAA East-West match, which was a terrific honor, because this match was primarily made up of the elite Division I golfers in the country.

I’m happy for Gavin. I think it brings a lot of notoriety to IUP and to the golf program, so I’m thrilled. It’s a long time coming.

Profile published on 6/18/09

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