He was hacking away with buddies at Tiger Point Golf Course in his hometown of Gulf Breeze, Fla.
But with one shot, that all changed. For no apparent reason, he hit a tee shot from the middle of the fairway on one of the holes that had an island green. Using a nine iron with no previous instruction, he swung at the ball. Instead of going into the water, the ball landed 10 feet from the pin.
“It was the shot that made me fall in love with golf,” Raynor said.
That one shot also ignited a storied golf career for Raynor that led him to Florida State and the Nike Tour.
Following an All-American and All-Atlantic Coast Conference career with the Seminoles, Raynor is getting inducted into the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend alongside retired football coaching legend Bobby Bowden and five others.
Raynor will attend a Hall of Fame banquet Friday in Tallahassee and his class will be honored during Saturday’s season opener against Murray State.
“I found out in the middle of March that I was going to be inducted, and, What can you say?” Raynor said. “I am extremely grateful, honored and humbled. Going alongside coach Bowden is as good as it gets.”
He said Bowden would occasionally visit the driving range where the team practiced and described Bowden as a laid back individual with a sharp mind.
Raynor played his best golf his senior year in 1994-’95. He won four of his last six tournaments he played during the spring of ’95. He took second overall in the ACC tournament and won the NCAA East Regionals by shooting rounds of 71-71-70 to finish with a 212. He was also third in the nation with a 71.61 scoring average his senior season, and much of his success had to do with a consistent short game.
Raynor came to Florida State as a walk-on who was recruited at the last minute. Arriving on campus, he said he was just happy to be a member of the team. Once his coach, Verlyn Giles, announced in their first meeting that five were going to be cut, he realized that a college career at Florida State wasn’t guaranteed.
“Basically what (Giles) said was, ‘I needed to get to work,’” Raynor said.
Giles never cut anyone, although Raynor said a couple of players did quit and Raynor opted to redshirt.
The following season, when Ernie Lanford took over as coach, Raynor came up short in qualifying for his first tournament he was eligible to play in. It turned out to be the only tournament where he would miss the cut.
He went on to make his college debut in the Florida State Intercollegiate, where he finished third overall with a 212.
Raynor was the fourth-ranked amateur in the nation when he turned pro in August 1995. He did well enough to play on the Nike Tour for three seasons, but never earned a PGA Tour card.
“Pro golf is really tough,” Raynor said. “There are about 1,000 people who want to play, but only 200 get a job on tour. That’s about all there is.”
Raynor retired from professional golf in 1998 and now enjoys life in Kennesaw with his wife Suzanne and his three children. He works as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and plays amateur tournaments on the side.