The emotional aspect of leaving Forsyth County will hit Dennis Ring with full force eventually. He grew up here. Coached here. Has family here.
If more than a few sentimental tears fall, that will be OK. Funny thing about tears: They’re warm, a little salty. Kind of like the waters of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s just another challenge,” Ring said of leaving Forsyth Country Day School for Alabama’s Gulf Shore. “But it’s a challenge in 78-degree winter weather.”
The draw of Bayside Academy in Daphne, Ala., proved too great a temptation for the 50-year-old Ring, who grew up in Clemmons, graduated from West Forsyth High School, coached at West, Mount Tabor and Forsyth Country Day, and worked in administration at Parkland and FCDS.
Beyond the great weather, Ring and his wife, Kristen, get the chance to work again with Peter Huestis. Bayside’s Head of School is a former Forsyth Country Day leader who recruited the Rings to Lewisville. Earlier this school year, Kristen got the job leading Bayside’s seventh through 12th grades. The pieces fell into place for the whole family when a position as director of development came available for Dennis.
At Forsyth Country Day, he served as director of corporate relations. Those working in the development offices of private schools have simple job descriptions – “I raise money,” Ring said with a laugh – and the similarity of the two schools makes the move easier.
“We’re excited. It’s a beautiful area, right on the shore,” Ring said. “I know it’s going to be hot, but it’s hot in July and August in North Carolina. I know there are going to be hurricanes – I’m smart enough to get out of the way of one.”
The Rings, who have been married 12 years, also timed the move for their children to settle into the Bayside family. Boys Reilly (11) and Colby (10) are approaching middle school, while Samantha (5) can start in Bayside’s kindergarten.
That is the other plus of Dennis and Kristen landing jobs on the faculty: “Being at a school where the two of us can do things not only to influence their education, but the friends and families that will be around them,” he said.
For all the plusses associated with the move, Ring’s announced departure did come as a surprise to many.
“The shocker was that he was leaving the community,” Forsyth Country Day Athletic Director Chris Turner said. “It is a great opportunity, but he has been such a big part of Forsyth County in so many capacities.”
Ring coached basketball and golf at West Forsyth starting in 1990 before moving in 1993 to Mount Tabor, where he coached football, basketball and golf until leaving to be athletic director of Parkland in 2005. He took the FCDS job in 2006, coaching boys golf the whole time and starting a girls golf team two years ago.
Ring enjoyed playing golf at an early age and credited local golfing legends such as Earnest Morris, Steve Forrest and Gordon Cox with impacting him as a youngster. Winston Lake’s junior golf academy is named after Morris, while Forrest and Cox are well-known teaching professionals in the area.
“They all had their different ways,” Ring recalled. “Gordon instilled a strong work ethic. Steve is an incredible golfer and good instructor. Earnest, his heart was so big for kids.
“My parents always supported everything we did and focused on integrity, work ethic and compassion for others,” Ring added of the early influences in his life. “That’s a temperament that’s good for golf. Now, there’s a temper in there sometimes. But the older you get, the more you realize ‘mad’ doesn’t help.”
Ring praised a number of past and current high school coaches for their great work with today’s young golfers, but his name can’t be left out of the conversation, either.
He started the first girls golf team in the county when Mount Tabor added a program in 1999. And at Forsyth Country Day, Ring is more than just “golf coach.” He spoke fondly of the bonds he has seen form between the high school players and impressionable middle-schoolers, and the camaraderie shared between the boys team and the girls.
“Dennis oversees the program, not just this varsity team,” Turner said of the Furies’ golfers. “He’s definitely going to be missed in our golf program. That program is exactly what we want all our athletic programs to be. They’re great athletes, great students and great kids.”
All that remains to be seen is how Ring’s FCDS story ends. Is a happy ending in the script?
The Furies’ boys team has competed in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3-A championship six times under Ring and has finished second five times and third once. In 2010, Forsyth Country Day lost in a playoff to Christ School, which also won the title last spring.
Ring’s team this season includes a starting six of juniors, five of whom have shot below-par rounds in tournaments this year. The Furies already boast one impressive title, claiming the 16th annual Palmetto High School Golf Championship in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., region over spring break. The Furies beat Forestview – a 4-A school – by two shots to win the 20-team championship flight.
Forsyth Country Day’s five players were no lower than 37th in the 97-player flight. Ben Schlottman was the individual medalist on the Rees Jones Course at Sea Trail Golf Plantation with Eric Mitchell, Gray Townsend, Jay Hunt and Tyler Hartley also playing well.
Can the Furies duplicate the feat at Bryan Park for the state 3-A championship on May 13-14?
“It will be great to win it – for them,” Ring said. “Because I know what it would mean later in life for them to be a state champion. I’ll be proud of them either way. It would be awesome, because I’ve seen how much they put into it.”
Schlottman has put in so much that he’ll be close enough for visits in a few years: The junior star has committed to Auburn – the limit of Ring’s rooting interests in the Auburn-Alabama rivalry: “It’ll still be N.C. State and Wake Forest,” he said with a smile.
Perhaps all the Furies will find their way to the Deep South for an annual visit. Ring, although not assigned to coach yet at Bayside, already has a name for a high school golf tournament he can envision at Lakewood Country Club: “Battle of the Bay,” he said with a smile. “I have to get Forsyth there.
“I’m going to get to Alabama and find some more kids to be around,” Ring added, “but none of them are going to take the place of this group. I’m going to miss this group of kids, and their parents.”