He was known around the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento as “The Slammer” and “Big Al from Northern Cal.”
He was known for his prodigious length off the tee, crushing drives with regularity at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course.
He was known for his exceptional putting and solid iron play.
He was also known for the way he went about spending his Fridays throughout the year – with his family, getting together with his three sons for breakfast, warming up at the driving range, then going out to play golf, and having lunch at Haggin Oaks.
Alan McDowell, an all-around athlete at 6-foot-4 during his days in high school and college in Ohio, had a lifelong love of golf that carries on today by his sons – Dan McDowell, Kevin McDowell and Tim McDowell. The family tradition of playing a weekly round of golf – always on Fridays, always starting at 7 a.m. and always getting around the course at right around 3 ½ hours – has spanned some 25 years.
“He was an exceptional father. He loved being with his kids. He loved playing golf,” said Dan McDowell.
“He was a solid handicapper. There was a time when he struck the ball very pure. He had a nice smooth, long fluid swing. I think in his good days he was about 12 or 13 (U.S. Golf Association handicap index).
“He hit the ball a long way. He was solid with his irons. He was a very good putter. He putted from anywhere off the green that he could.”
Dan McDowell remembers his father, who died on June 4, 2019, as still being as competitive as ever well into his 80s.
“He could still shoot a round in the 80s every now and then. Toward the end, he still could shoot a round in the 90s.
“He had one of those magnetic personalities. Everyone liked to be around him.”
Alan McDowell passed away at the age of 87. He was getting out to play golf up until six months before he died. And he was still working as a dentist up until a year before his passing.
“My dad played golf for 75 years,” said Dan McDowell, who has been a dentist since 1982.
One of Alan McDowell’s golfing highlights was twice winning a long drive contest during 49ers Gold Rush Booster Club tournaments put on by the Sacramento chapter.
“He had a couple of (San Francisco) 49ers footballs that were signed by all the players for the long drive,” said Dan McDowell.
“He was a very solid golfer in his day.”
Playing golf each Friday at Haggin Oaks
The family tradition of playing golf together each Friday continues for the McDowells, with Dan McDowell, Kevin McDowell and Tim McDowell playing the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course and spending anywhere from 7 to 8 hours during the day at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
“It’s a great place to be,” said Dan McDowell. “My two brothers and I have been playing out there, every Friday morning, for the last 25 years. It was kind of our family time. That was a super important part of our family life – getting together every Friday morning, every week, rain or shine, going out to Haggin Oaks, and having breakfast, playing golf and then getting lunch afterward. We know everybody out there. It’s the one thing we could all do together.
“It’s kind of unique to have a father and three sons playing together – we have kind of stood out.
“They run a great operation out there. Everybody knows you by your name. They have given us red-carpet treatment. I’ve bought all of my clubs out there for the last 50 years. I always get them out of the Super Shop.
“We really enjoy playing there. We like the course and we really like the people out there. They treat us like royalty out there. We’ve been lucky.”
A memorial service for Alan McDowell, who played football and basketball at The College of Wooster, an NCAA-Division III school in Wooster, Ohio, was held at Haggin Oaks.
A memorial plaque for Alan McDowell was installed by Haggin Oaks staff in an area where cement benches and tables are located, near the cart path and scoreboard, by the 18th green of the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course.
The McDowell family received help with the plaque from Mike Woods, a PGA member and the Vice President and General Manager of Haggin Oaks and the Vice President of the Morton Golf Foundation. Woods is with the ownership team at Morton Golf.
There is a special tradition with the McDowell family, as Dan, Kevin and Tim take time after each round to tap their father’s plaque, located on the top of one of the tables. They leave either a golf ball or a tee next to the plaque.
“We get out of our cart and walk over there and tap the plaque after every round we play in memory of when he used to play with us every week,” said Dan McDowell. “We tap it with our hand or golf ball.
“It’s a tradition that we do at the end of every round. Even if we have other guys that come with us, everybody always walks over and taps ‘Big Al’s’ plaque.”
The plaque has the dates engraved of when Alan McDowell was born and when he passed away.
Alan McDowell received assistance from course marshals and staff following knee surgery, as he had difficulty walking later in his life.
“They were just absolutely the kindest people during his last few years, so he could still come out and play golf,” said Dan McDowell. “He wasn’t super healthy at the end. He had a degenerative knee disease.”
The McDowell family also has taken golf trips over the years, usually to the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area.
“It was great bonding time. I enjoy my family. I enjoy my brothers. I miss my dad,” said Dan McDowell.
Introduced to the game by his dad
Dan McDowell was introduced to the game of golf by his dad at Sunset Whitney Golf Course in Rocklin. It was near the family’s home.
“He got me lessons out there. I started playing golf when I was about 9 or 10 and I have played ever since,” said Dan McDowell.
Dan McDowell and Kevin McDowell went to Oakmont High School in Roseville. Tim McDowell went to Roseville High.
All three graduated from Sacramento State.
Tim McDowell works as a real estate agent. He is also the head coach for the Roseville High junior varsity football team.
Kevin McDowell has a business, Capital West Officials Association, which works with basketball referees and officials in the Sacramento and Northern California areas.
The McDowell brothers also have a connection to basketball, as they each used to play city league hoops together.
As a dentist, Alan McDowell always used to talk to his patients about how much he was looking forward each week to playing golf with his sons.
“My dad always looked forward to Friday golf as the highlight of his week. He talked about it with all of his patients,” said Dan McDowell. “He just liked to compete. Golf is something you can compete in for your whole life. My dad was competitive, so he would like to win. There was never any negative competitiveness with him. I don’t think he ever complained about a round of golf his entire life. He always had a great attitude, just glad to be out there.
“He would needle you. He wasn’t a saint. He liked to rub it in your nose when he would beat you. But it was in a friendly way.”
The McDowells also have a tradition of playing, rain or shine.
“That’s what my dad did. He never missed a day of golf,” said Dan McDowell. “It could be 40 mph winds or raining. But we played. If they would let you out, we played. We always had a great time.”
Alan McDowell’s background
Alan McDowell was from Cleveland and was a two-sport athlete at The College of Wooster. The Fighting Scots play in the North Coast Athletic Conference. Wittenberg University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Allegheny College, Denison University, Hiram College, Oberlin College, Kenyon College and DePauw University are also in the league.
When he was in college, Alan McDowell played bass guitar in a local band.
McDowell graduated from The College of Wooster and after getting out of dental school, served in the U.S. Air Force as a captain. He was in the Air Force for 11 years and was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento County.
He later opened his own dental office in Sacramento in the 1960s. He retired in 2018.
“When he passed, I got a number of his patients. They all said, ‘Oh my god, he’s been talking about you guys playing Friday golf for 30 years,’ ” said Dan McDowell. “He really enjoyed golf.
“That was the one thing that we carved out of our week, no matter what. Friday mornings was golf time. You never missed it.”
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.