Tiger Woods measured success by the metrics of Jack Nicklaus’ accomplishments. Yet, beyond the numbers, Woods discovered amid the uncomfortable, unsettled truths of life that success is relative and gauged by life’s sometimes-unpredictable undercurrents.
Success is often, if not invariably, measured by one’s character, too.
Rodney Dingle, a long time and loyal Tiretown Golf Club member, was a splendid golfer with all the requisite skills. He conquered many courses with precise iron play and deft, soft-handed wedges around the greens. There aren’t enough walls to mount his hardware; enough platitudes to aptly describe his impact on a 71-year-old organization often defined by his immeasurable works.
Character, then, is the only metric needed to sufficiently describe Mr. Dingle’s life.
The Akron native died on Feb. 24 following a courageous battle with an incurable heart disease. He was 76.
“He loved the Lord, he loved his family and he loved mentoring kids,” said his sister Daphne Dingle. “Everyone looked up to him because he was a man of integrity. He would tell you the truth whether you wanted it or not.”
The truth is Mr. Dingle was a golfer for whom so many measured their skills. More important, he was a man who possessed a moral compass that steered wayward-bound kids in the right direction.
For years, his rivals retooled their games to somehow narrow the competitive gap created with his steady play. Even as time ultimately robbed him of distance off the tee and forced him to be far more creative with long irons from once short-iron distances, he continued to hover atop the leader board.
“Rod was always competitive,” said Bishop Benjamin Drone of Faith Temple Church of the Living God, where he and Mr. Dingle first met during Sunday school nearly 70 years ago. “But he was also a compassionate person, who dedicated much of his life to helping young people. He was Uncle Rod to every kid in church.”
Indeed, we’ll always remember how he played the game. And he’ll be remembered for his unwavering humility, generosity, wit and commitment to family and friends.
Mr. Dingle, who also leaves behind his loving wife of 56 years, Ramona, two sons (Rodney Jr. and Randall) and brother Tommy, embraced an extended family within Tiretown.
He was the take-charge, unflappable father figure. The tough-as-nails yet embraceable big brother who never spared the truth but smoothed over uncomfortable realities. With an unparalleled sense of humor, he cultivated a bombastic uncle who turned nightmarish days on the golf course — his and yours — into something to laugh about.
“Rod was a joy to be around,” said Elmore Banton, a former NCAA cross country champion and Ohio University track and field coach. “He touched a lot of lives and when he spoke people listened.
“He did a lot of smack-talking, too. I remember we were playing in a scramble tournament and kept saying, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m the best chipper in the world.’ We all messed up our chips, then he bladed (missed) his shot. Even he had to laugh.”
While he didn’t take himself too seriously on the golf course, Mr. Dingle was singularly focused after punching the clock.
Long before he became among Tiretown’s most influential members and club champion, Mr. Dingle parlayed his work ethic and determination into remarkable careers at the Akron Urban League and Akron Beacon Journal, a publication that honored him many times while attending East High School and College of Wooster.
Mr. Dingle was an all-city first team in both football and basketball. He and three of his East High teammates – Mike Buckner, Frank Williams and Frank Thompson – are all enshrined in the Summit County Hall of Fame.
“We played ball together since seventh grade, and Rod was one of the finest athletes around,” said Williams, who played basketball at the University of Akron. “He was a good guy to deal with, too.
“He was one of the best football players I ever saw in my life. He could stop on a dime, and not lose any speed when he started back up.
“I could beat him in basketball, but he was just exceptional in golf,” Williams said. “He was head and shoulders above us all. We would go down to Charlotte, and he’d take all the money. Then, he would joke about us paying for his hotel bills.”
Mr. Dingle, a 1962 graduate of East High School, was inducted into the College of Wooster Hall of Fame. He shared the spotlight during his senior season with two other standouts running backs — Bobby Lykes (South High) and Ray Matthews (Garfield High). They were considered the best set of All-City running backs to ever play in the City Series in a single season.
“Rod coached all my sons in basketball, and I’m thankful he did,” Williams said. “You get to a point when you’re raising your kids, and they take you for granted. I turned them over to Rod, who was an excellent coach but an even better mentor for young boys. He was a great man.”
He, too, was someone many emulated.
“I watched Rod play basketball throughout high school,” said Drone, whose church will rename its annual charity tournament in honor of Dingle. “I would mimic his moves, but I never could. He was someone we all looked up to.”
Mr. Dingle, who worked nearly 20 years at the Akron Beacon Journal, was director of the day camp and youth sports programs at the Urban League. And he took great pride in helping organize many of Tiretown’s events.
During the past few years, he served as an invaluable consultant in many roles – including the annual Tiretown Scholarship Tournament, scheduling, constitution and rules arbiter.
“Rod was always willing to help out with any church function,” Bishop Drone said. “I’ve known him since he was seven when his brother (Tommy) was my Sunday school teacher. He gave a lot of himself to us all.”
The home-going service for Mr. Dingle will be Friday, March 5 with a live streaming at 3 p.m., at Stewart and Calhoun Funeral Home, which is located at 529 West Thornton Street in Akron. Bishop Drone will deliver the eulogy.
Ralph N. Paulk