Mike Dyson arrives at work at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento each day right at 6 a.m.
As the longtime lead cook at MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille, Dyson uses the first half-hour of his shift setting up and organizing the kitchen area with his team and also preparing the restaurant for that day.
For Dyson, the work that he puts in is not just about cooking breakfast and lunch, with quality and service that is exceptional. It’s about taking time to welcome customers. It’s about getting to know those people and connecting with them on a personal level. It’s about doing all he can to make their day – by bringing a high level of energy and positivity to his workplace.
“I enjoy people,” said Dyson. “I can kind of read them. If I see people that come into the restaurant that are kind of feeling a little gloomy, I’ve got a personality that is trying to pull a smile out of them. It usually works. I can pull a good smile out of somebody.”
It’s that type of warmth, spirit and comfort that Dyson takes great pride in and brings to work with him each day. He also goes about making sure to personalize specific dishes for customers that he has gotten to know over his five years at Haggin Oaks, a facility that has the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, Arcade Creek Course, Haggin Oaks Academy Holes, MacKenzie Putting Course, driving range with 100 hitting stalls and target greens, Player Performance Studio, Super Shop, and Club Performance & Repair Center.
“Growing up, I didn’t know how to cook and I didn’t really want to learn how to cook,” said Dyson. “The pressure of working and being the lead cook can be stressful at times. But I like the pressure. It keeps me on my toes. And if I stay on my toes, I can keep my team on their toes and make sure everybody is good.
“I love making people feel good. If I can put out a good product and make the person feel good about eating that food and putting a good smile on their face – that’s what we need nowadays. It’s putting a good smile on somebody’s face.”
Dyson is from a big family – he is originally from Stockton and has three sisters and seven brothers. His sister, Vickie Dyson, handled the cooking duties for the family.
It was after his high school days at Edison of Stockton, where he played football, wrestled and ran on the track and field team as a three-sport athlete, that Mike Dyson became interested in cooking and the restaurant business.
“I was doing warehouse jobs and odd jobs,” he said. “My brother-in-law was working for Black Angus (Steakhouse). He’s like, ‘Hey, I need a dishwasher.’ I started at Black Angus 23 years ago. Eventually, they made me a line cook. And I picked up cooking very fast.” It was during his years at Black Angus Steakhouse where Dyson met Dave Ohlsen, who is currently the restaurant manager for MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille and Haggin Oaks. It was Ohlsen who brought Dyson to Haggin Oaks, a facility that is managed by Morton Golf.
“I landed there five years ago and I love the spot,” said Dyson. “I love the Mortons. Every time I go to work, I try to give them my all, with my customer service.
“I don’t know too much about golf, but I’m learning. I’m really learning. I’ve tried the driving range.”
There is a lot to choose from on the menu at MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille, which is in very close proximity to the two golf courses and driving range. It’s a “North Sacramento restaurant offering a casual dining experience indoors and out for family and friends looking to enjoy a good meal or grabbing a local craft brew on tap or something else from the full-service bar,” according to the Haggin Oaks website, www.hagginoaks.com and www.mackenziessportsbar.com. “Surrounded by local golf history and an open kitchen, MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille offers communal casual dining.”
Breakfast, served daily until 11 a.m., features the Par Buster Breakfast Sandwich, Three Egg Omelette, Golfer’s Special, Grande Breakfast Burrito, Two Eggs with Potatoes and Toast, and the Senior Breakfast.
The menu also features Appetizers and Salads & Soups. Additionally, there is a Seniors Menu and a Kid’s Meal.
There are Classic Burgers, the Jumbo Hot Dog and Polish Sausage Dog.
The menu also features Grille & Deli Favorites, as well as Dozen Street Tacos, Octoberfest German Sausage Plate, Foursome Nachos, 18 Wings & Veggies, and the Amen Corner Sharable Sub.
The MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. According to www.hagginoaks.com and www.mackenziessportsbar.com, “The restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere features a menu anchored around a large selection of burgers, shareable appetizers, sandwiches, and salads, including a breakfast menu reminiscent of Sunday mornings surrounding the kitchen table. Daily house-made soups with a focus on using the highest quality and freshest ingredients, flavorful seasonal daily specials from proprietary recipes, and other hand-crafted menu selections abound in the kitchen.
“The outdoor patio overlooks famed golf course architect Alister MacKenzie’s designed course by the same name and is the perfect place to enjoy the views while also savoring your meal. Visit the bar for a hand-crafted cocktail, glass of wine or craft beer where you’ll find a wide selection of locally crafted brews on tap. Bring your putter and work on your short game at the adjacent practice putting green too.
“The Haggin Oaks Golf Complex provides a welcoming atmosphere that envelops all guests at the property.”
Dyson likes to feature specials of the day as part of the menu.
“I try to keep that that good flow of food,” he said.
There is also a very personal touch that he applies to orders of customers that he has known. Dyson said there is a player, in particular, who is in a women’s golf group at Haggin Oaks, that he serves a tuna melt for.
“She has this preference of a tuna melt. You have some people that want their toast really crust, but not burnt, but really buttery, a lightly toast but a crust around it and not too much cheese,” he said.
“I try my best to get it right for them. We’re here to make people happy. They’ve been out all day, playing golf and they’re hungry. I’m trying to get the food to them as fast as possible. I don’t like to have a customer waiting too long for their food.”
Ohlsen works very closely with Dyson in the restaurant.
“He has created these relationships and connections with guests. People enjoy him. He’s lighthearted,” said Ohlsen, who has been at MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille for seven years. “He knows what they’re having and he gets it started before they get in line or pay. He knows all the little ins and outs of people’s orders, however they like it. He just gets it done. He’s a hard worker. He’s a consummate professional.
“People come in, looking for him, to say hi to him. Some people just come in and say hi, as they’re just starting their round and they’re coming back for lunch later.”
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.