By Drew Terhall
NEW MADISON — Sometimes, it takes one event to change one’s perspective on life. For Richard Ryan of New Madison, it was going through a liver transplant after battling non-alcoholic cirrhosis.
Ryan spent one year on the waiting list for a new liver. On July 23, 2018, he finally got the call and went in for surgery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Ryan said he remembers being in the parking lot at a Meijer in Englewood when the call came.
Before that, he doesn’t remember much else. He spent a year battling his liver disease which damaged his body greatly. Ryan said there were times he would be completely paraylzed and would hallucinate. The disease was eating away at his body.
His memory became foggy as the disease did its work. His memory became more clear after he woke up in the hospital after his transplant. Ryan said after spending about a year and a half recovering, his health is the best it has been in the past 15-20 years. He’s able to live his life to the fullest.
“If you have your health, anything is possible. When you don’t have your health, then a lot of things aren’t possible. I was at that point, I was near death,” Ryan said.
During his time at the hospital, his new outlook on life began to take shape. Ryan said he felt like he was given a gift that came with the obligation to pay it forward.
He started his nonprofit organization, The Farm 723, while in the hospital. Ryan said he first wanted to help others at UC who received a transplant.
Ryan talked with the head of transplant surgery, Dr. Shimul Shah, about handing out bags to help transplant patients keep their medications, equipment and any other medical items all in one place.
Shah said that was a great idea and The Bag Program was born.
“If you’re not giving back, then you’re just a taker. That’s not a good thing to be,” Ryan said.
When Ryan returned to New Madison, he continued to ramp up his efforts to help the community. Through his nonprofit, he partnered with many different organizations. For example, they partnered with Angel Tree Ministries to provide Christmas gifts for children less fortunate.
Ryan also helps out with the Darke County Poker Club at Paws Bingo Hall to help the Humane Society and particpates in their daily events.
He was able to highlight what his nonprofit does when he was selected as one of Dayton’s 60 Strong. It’s a calendar that shares the stories of those who had to overcome some difficult obstacles in their life.
Since his transplant, Ryan is doing all he can to help the people of Darke County.
“I love Darke County and the people in it. Anytime I can help, I certainly want to try within my capabilities,” Ryan said.
Ryan is a retired Navy veteran and a retired umpire. He spent years officiating high school baseball and softball.
With some extra spare time, Ryan said he got into golfing about 15 years ago. He would golf with his friends or his nephew. It was also a way to help recover from his surgery.
“After that, you become grateful for everything. Being on the golf course and being out in that environment was therapeutic for me. It was really good training to get my body back and recover from such a traumatic experience,” Ryan said.
He has taken his game to new heights since then. Ryan said a friend of his told him about the Amateur Players Tour about two years ago. Ryan decided to give it a try.
This was his first year playing on the tour. He started in the last division, Division 5, and was grouped with other golfers around the Dayton/Cincinnati area.
Ryan said it has been a great experience going around to the area’s top public and private golf courses and competing against 125+ golfers at each tournament.
In his first year, he won two tournaments in Division 5. He then moved up to Division 4 and has brought home some hardware already. The 66 year-old was named the Cincinnati/Dayton Division 4 and 2022 Senior Net player of the year.
Ryan said he had some friends help him improve his game to get where he is today. He worked hard to be able to compete in the tour.
“If you don’t buy into being the best you can be, then you’re going to have problems later on in life. It’s as simple as that,” Ryan said.
Ryan did take some of the lessons he learned from recovering from his surgery and applied them to the golf course. Ryan said his laser focus on getting his body right helps him stay focused on the golf course.
His focus, along with his chipping and putting, helped him have the success he’s had in the tour. To him, he didn’t expect to have this level of success this year.
“This is my very first time I ever did anything like this as far as golf goes. This is way beyond what I thought I would ever be capable of,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty humbling, but it’s also pretty exciting.”
Through all of this, Ryan’s wife Sherry has been supportive of his dreams. Ryan said she was the go to between him and the doctors when he couldn’t tell the doctors what was going on. She was the one to be by his side at the hospital and at all of the doctor appointments.
She’s the type of person Ryan believes everyone should have in their life.
“If it weren’t for her being my advocate, I wouldn’t be here today. She fought for me, she advocated for me. In this life, you have to have an advocate,” Ryan said.
This is just the beginning for Ryan. He has used his golf winnings to help Darke County through his charities.
Ryan said he hopes to bring more money to Darke County when he competes in the North American Championship in Nashville, Tenn. on Oct. 10-12. The purse for the event is about $50,000 split amongst the five divisions.
Many local businesses are sponsoring his trip. Dave Knapp Ford, Barge Heating and A/C and Flaig Lumber Co. are all supporting Ryan.
Ryan said he has shown he can compete at the local level and hopes he can be competitive in the championship.
No matter what happens in the tournament, Ryan will continue to play as long as he can.
“I’ll never be on the Korn Ferry tour, I’ll probably be on the corn field tour. I’m having a blast and it’s fun,” Ryan said.
Ryan does want to spread his love for the game to others. He said he hopes to start hosting golf lessons for kids and get more younger people to enjoy golf.
He also wants to get the money with the holidays slowly approaching. Ryan said he is already preparing to help those in need during the holiday season.
For updates on how Ryan is doing during the championship, you can go to amateurplayerstour.com for updates during the three-day event. To see Ryan’s charity work and see how you can help, visit thefarm723.org or go to the Darke County Poker Club’s Facebook page.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]