Rudy Danzinger didn’t know a thing about golf when he was growing up in his hometown of Cincinnati.
He didn’t know anybody in the area that played golf. He didn’t know where any of the courses were located.
All of that changed for Danzinger when he left town, headed west, and ended up in the Bay Area. He was 18 years old when he played his first round of golf in Mill Valley, in 1953.
“I had no idea what it was,” he said. “They just gave me some clubs. I knew how to tee it up.”
Danzinger continued in the game, playing in San Francisco, at both TPC Harding Park Golf Club and Lincoln Park Golf Course.
“I started playing at Harding for a while, but it was really hard to get on to Harding, and so we would go to Lincoln and I was playing Lincoln every Sunday morning. But I still had no clue on what to do – nothing at all,” he said. “It was always just tee it up and have fun.” Over the years, Danzinger brought his U.S. Golf Association Handicap Index down.
“I think my best handicap was probably at around 12, somewhere right in there,” he said.
With his move to Sacramento in 1977, Danzinger began getting more and more involved in golf.
“Ken Morton Sr. always said, ‘When are you going to get involved? Get involved,’ ” Danzinger recalled.
He did just that, joining the Sacramento Golf Council. He also joined the Sacramento Golf Club, which is based at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.
He was on the board of directors for the Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association and the First Tee – Greater Sacramento.
He was with the Northern California Golf Association for 12 years, doing course ratings.
He brings a personal touch to his work as the tournament director for two events: Sacramento City Men’s Regional Four-Ball Championship, which was played March 20-21 and 27-28 at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex, and the Sacramento County Men’s Four-Ball Championship, scheduled for Oct. 23-24 and 30-31 at Mather Golf Course.
“I’ve always felt that I inherited a lot of friendships through golf,” he said.
He connects and stays in touch with some of the players who are in the tournaments that he runs. Through Facebook, he wishes them a “Happy Birthday” and also “good luck” in the events that they are preparing for.
“I am so fortunate, as I’ve made a lot of good friends. I communicate a lot with them during the year,” he said. “I’ve been told that I’m pretty popular. They can call me anytime. I feel close to them. It’s just easy to do.”
In recognition of all his work as a longtime volunteer with the Sacramento Golf Club and Sacramento Golf Council, as well as organizing and putting on major local tournaments for both juniors and adults and for amateur golf in the Sacramento area, Danzinger was recently awarded Lifetime Honorary Membership in the Sacramento Golf Club.
“I just feel really honored,” Danzinger, 86, said. “I don’t know how to put it in words. I was always involved in golf somewhere.”
“I don’t know when I’m going to quit. As far as running tournaments, it takes a lot out of me. But it’s the energy I get from it, from the time I get there at 5:30 in the morning and leave at 7 at night.”
Danzinger was selected for Lifetime Honorary Membership by the Sacramento Golf Club’s board, which is led by Mike Woods, SGC President and a member of the Sacramento Golf Council.
“It was a really easy decision for us to choose Rudy,” said Woods, the Vice President, General Manager, and Director of Golf at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. “He’s been involved with the golf club for so many decades. He’s one of the most popular people in the golf club, and everybody just loves Rudy Danzinger. He is just a friend to everybody.
“Close to 20 years ago, he was actually the tournament director for the Sacramento Golf Club. He was working in the club and running all of the events. We thought, after all his years with the club and his years of service, and his great relationship with everyone, that it was just a real natural to choose Rudy as the honorary member.”
Danzinger joins Ken Dotson, a longtime Sacramento Golf Club member who has relocated to Reno, with Lifetime Honorary Membership.
The Sacramento Golf Club’s home is Haggin Oaks, a 36-hole facility that features the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course and Arcade Creek Course; driving range, with 100 hitting stalls, Toptracer Range and raised target greens; Haggin Oaks Academy Holes; MacKenzie Putting Course; Player Performance Studio; Club Performance & Repair Center; Super Shop; Haggin Oaks Shoe Store; and MacKenzie’s Sports Bar and Grille.
According to its website, sacramentogc.memberplanet.com:
“The Sacramento Golf Club is a fun golf club that offers weekday and weekend events, an official USGA handicap, NCGA membership/benefits, and much more. Whether you’re interested in competition, the social benefits of meeting other golfers, or just enjoying the courses and amenities the Haggin Oaks complex has to offer, the Sacramento Golf Club provides these opportunities to its members.”
Involvement in the game of golf
Danzinger spent many years working for Tower Records, which was a key sponsor of the Sacramento City Junior Championship.
He enjoys leading two Sacramento Golf Council events: Sacramento City Men’s Regional Four-Ball Championship and Sacramento County Men’s Four-Ball Championship, as tournament director.
“I do have a lot of great players. They’re all low scratch players and they like the four-ball format,” he said.
He is a longtime member of the Sacramento Golf Council, which according to its website, sacgolfcouncil.org, is a nonprofit corporation consisting of local volunteers conducting quality golf tournaments each year for the golfing public.
“Our mission is to conduct and promote superior golf events at City and County golf courses in the Sacramento Metropolitan area for all interested golfers. Specific events are open to men and women of all ages and abilities, and juniors.
“Each event features on-course player assistants, rules officials, and starter announcers. Some tournaments are approved for NCGA points. The council supports First Tee of Sacramento, Junior Golf Association of Northern California, and other approved junior golf programs.”
Danzinger’s work with the Sacramento Golf Club over the years has included also serving as handicap chairman and membership director.
“When I ran the club, I always made sure that people would be meeting other people,” said Danzinger, a Sacramento resident, who is retired. “You get involved with the members, to form a relationship.
“I feel as though I have dedicated some time. I think that I always was out trying to be with and be around people and do the things that I like to do. So, it all worked out for me.”
He has been with the Sacramento Golf Club since 1980. He has been with the Sacramento Golf Council for the last 23 years.
“One of the things that make golf really special is volunteerism,” said Woods, a PGA member and the Vice President of Morton Golf Foundation who is with the ownership team at Morton Golf. “It’s really different than a lot of other sports in that capacity. Rudy’s a great example of that, where, when he’s working years ended and he retired, and he had the opportunity to do something that he was really passionate about, something he loves, it seems like golf was just a natural for him. And so, he brings this huge amount of skill and expertise in running tournaments and running golf events.”
Two key events
Bobby Bucey and Brett Viboch won the 66th Sacramento City Men’s Regional Four-Ball Championship, defeating John Byers and Jason Herrera in the finals, 2 and 1, on March 28.
There were 52 teams that played in the qualifying round, with Bucey and Viboch securing medalist honors with a 9-under 63.
The 2021 Sacramento County Men’s Four-Ball Championship is an NCGA points tournament and is open to all amateur golfers with a current World Handicap System Index of 7.0 or less as of Oct. 15, 2021, Sacramento Golf Council said.
A four-ball stroke plays qualifying round on Oct. 23 begins the event. It’s followed by first-round matches on Oct. 24, second and third-round matches on Oct. 30, fourth-round matches on Oct. 31, and then the championship match on Oct. 31.
“These events are really important to the better male amateur players, scratch players, to play with a partner,” said Woods. “The way it’s run and the details of how it’s conducted is very important among those top players and Rudy really understands that, and really understand how to do it properly. These top players feel like it’s done correctly and the best team is truly identified.
“He’s got this amazing talent, at the same time, to run Sacramento Golf Club events. Rudy is such a unique individual, where he can really do both and do it really well.”
Enjoying the game
Danzinger was with Tower Records – running stores, organizing artist and book signings, doing community relations and advertising work in different locations – for 35 years.
He doesn’t play much golf anymore but will hit balls on the driving range at Haggin Oaks. He enjoys being around the game, talking about it, and following the players from the Sacramento area who are competing as juniors, amateurs, in college and professionally.
“I’ve been off the fairways for a while. Since 2018, I’ve played maybe five to six times.
“I go out to Haggin Oaks all the time. I hit balls. I hook up with some old-timers like myself, and we just sit around and talk and tell stories and do that,” he said.
“I always enjoy being around people and talking to them. Even if I’m not working the tournament, I’ll sit at the table, with the starter, just saying hi and clapping when they call their names and then going home.”
Said Woods: “I guarantee you, there’s nobody that would guess Rudy is 86. He just has this youthfulness about him. He’s got this great laughter and smile and he’s just such a fun guy, that he just comes off so youthful.
“So I think when he tells people he’s 86, they not only can’t believe it from the way he looks but also just the way he carries himself. There’s just really a youthfulness to him. It’s pretty special.”
* 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.