PBA Hall of Famer and Bowling Instructor Dick Ritger Dies at 81
Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer, and one of the sport’s top instructors, Dick Ritger of River Falls, Wisconsin, died Aug. 27 at his home at the age of 81.
Inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1978, Ritger, who used a smooth classic delivery favored by many greats of his era, won 20 PBA Tour titles in a 16-year tour career that began in 1965. Only 12 players have won more tour titles.
He was selected as the 14th greatest player of all-time on the list of the 50 greatest players in PBA history, as part of the organization’s 50th anniversary in 2009.
More recently, as part of PBA's 60th anniversary celebration in 2019 a panel of historians, bowling writers and veteran tour competitors, Ritger played a role in the No. 1 moment in PBA Tour history when he finished second in the 1970 Firestone Tournament of Champions losing 299-268 to Don Johnson in the title match.
In addition to being one of the sport’s top players he was also one of the most popular, having twice won PBA’s Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award (1970, 1973). Ritger was also a two-time titlist at the USBC Open Championships, winning Classic Team in 1967 and Classic All-Events in 1977, and was elected to the USBC Hall of Fame in 1984 in the Superior Performance category.
When he was nine years old, Ritger was already competing in adult leagues at his family’s 10-lane bowling center in Hartford, Wisconsin, eventually competing in up to seven leagues a week.
While attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (1960), where he double-majored in physical education and recreation, that training, in addition to his standout ability as a competitor, would serve as the foundation to eventually becoming one of the sport’s most accomplished and recognizable coaches.
After his tour career, he turned to coaching and the creation of the Dick Ritger Bowling Camps where his revolutionary Ritger Method has helped tens of thousands of bowlers over more than four decades.
As an instructor for AMF and his own Dick Ritger Bowling Camps he had conducted more than 500 clinics in more than two dozen countries. He also produced several highly-respected videos including a video series called "The Perfect Feelings of Bowling," which was distributed globally and is still the basis of the curriculum at the Dick Ritger Bowling Camps.
His lifetime of competition and service to the sport also earned him a variety of industry awards, including the World Bowling Writers Distinguished Service Award (1995), John Martino Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Sport of Bowling (1998) and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America/Dick Weber Ambassador Award (2006).
In 2008, Ritger became the first inductee into the newly-created Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame.
Ritger is survived by his wife of 60 years, Judy; three children, Scott (Amy), Shari (Joe) Hammer and Cyndi; 13 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; brothers Dave (Shirley) and John (Laura), sister-in-law Kathy and their respective families.
A private family memorial mass will be held Sunday, Aug. 30 at 2 p.m. (Central) at St. Bridget Catholic Church in River Falls.
In honor of Ritger's life, the family requests that any memorial gifts be given to St. Bridget's Catholic Church or the River Falls Food Pantry.