Like his fellow U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Committee members, Doug Fry was looking forward to spending a week in Alabama at the Country Club of Birmingham for this year’s championship.
Fry, an 11-year member, had missed just one Mid-Amateur since joining the committee for the 2004 competition at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
But when the 49-year-old from Mequon, Wis., rejoined the Wisconsin Army National Guard in September after a 15-year hiatus, his travel plans changed.
Instead of flying to Alabama, he’ll be flying helicopters.
"I feel terrible about missing this one," said Fry, who typically spends one weekend a month in the National Guard, where he flies Black Hawk copters as part of the F-Company 2-238 Medevac Unit based in West Bend, 15 miles northwest of Milwaukee. "All of the training stuff, all of the maneuvers and mission requirements, there’s a lot to it. Now it’s really about learning."
Fry helped pay for his education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater by enrolling in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). While a student, he served in an armor unit in Milwaukee and after graduation, he signed up with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. Strong eyesight combined with outstanding grades and a strong physique provided Fry with a range of assignment options. He selected aviation and began with a unit based in Madison, Wis. From 1987-97, he flew Scout helicopters and eventually Black Hawks for his final three years.
During that time, he signed on for Desert Storm and spent three months at Fort Rucker in Alabama before being sent home.
"The war quite frankly ended fast and they stopped shipping people over," said Fry.
When he moved to Charlotte, N.C., which did not have a local aviation unit, Fry left the National Guard. Family and job obligations took up most of his time. He later returned to Wisconsin to work for former USGA Executive Committee member Jim Reinhart’s investment management firm, but it wasn’t until his daughter left for college this fall that he considered rejoining the Guard. With his career as a senior portfolio manager on solid footing, Fry got the blessing from Reinhart and his family to return to the military.
"It was pretty much a now-or-never [situation]," said Fry. "They don’t take people much older than me."
For Fry, getting back behind the controls of a Black Hawk Helicopter was relatively easy. He even discovered there were others his age doing the same thing.
"It’s not as uncommon as you think," he said. "You have a lot of people who do it for awhile and then for family or other reasons, they get out. Finally their kids are a little older and their job is a little more secure and they come back."
Fry spent much of September reacquainting himself with required maneuvers and techniques. One afternoon, his team practiced 50- to 250-foot hovers while a medic was lowered from the helicopter to rescue a patient.
Fry has done several real-life missions and seen some horrific things, including being dispatched to rural Wisconsin after a car with three high school-age girls had been hit by a train. None of the teenagers survived.
Fry has yet to be deployed overseas, although several members of his current unit were sent to Kosovo last year. Some have been sent to Iraq as well.
"If I had gotten in five years ago, I would have been deployed at least twice," said Fry. "The odds now are much slimmer. Our unit had been scheduled to go to Afghanistan in March of next year, but they have pulled most of those deployments back."
Fry still works full-time at Reinhart Partners, Inc. He also loves volunteering as a Rules official with the USGA, although this year he had to turn down assignments for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Amateur because of his pending duties in the National Guard.
Besides his one-weekend-per-month duties, Fry, who is classified as a chief warrant officer (CW2), is also required to do two weeks of annual training in the summer. As a crew member, he performs an additional 48 hours of flight-training sessions, which generally consist of flying on a Thursday night after work.
If anything, being in the National Guard is very much like joining a USGA committee. He is working with passionate people who want to give something back.
"It’s fun. It’s great," said Fry. "I love the military. I feel very strongly about it. I certainly understand that some people don’t and it’s not for everybody. But I love the mission. I believe in what the military does and I love the camaraderie. There’s a good bunch of guys."
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.