By Beaux Yenchik, UGA Intern
Don Lopacinski, a volunteer rules official, is one those selfless individuals who gives of their time, talents and energy to help the Utah Golf Association function. He, along with many others, are the life-blood for amateur golf in the state of Utah. Without people like him, the UGA would be puttering along as if on an empty tank of gas.
Lopacinski is an avid golfer, who has a deep passion for the game and its rules. Though officiating never was an area in which a career was made, he certainly spent a good amount of time doing it- with or without compensation.
A love for the game of golf began back in high school for Lopacinski. Though he never played competitively in school, he enjoyed it enough to turn it into a life-long hobby. After high school, Lopacinski and his family moved from Chicago, where he was born, to Seattle.
After getting married to his wife, Carol, the two lovebirds remained in Seattle for some time. While there, Don Lopacinski and his wife mastered the art of being an amazing aunt and uncle, since the two of them never had children.
Following their time in Seattle, the Lopacinski’s packed up their belongings and moved to Silicon Valley for the next step in Don Lopacinski’s career; he was an electronic specialist on electric-controlled vehicles. Don Lopacinski joined this line of work after high school and received specialized training and education through his employment.
The time spent in the Monterey Bay area helped jump-start his seriousness toward the sport. Because northern California had such a heavy tournament schedule with men’s leagues and such at the time, Don Lopacinski decided to get involved and joined a local club: the Delaveaga Golf Course.
It was here that Don Lopacinski had his Claret Jug moment- his greatest golf accomplishment. In 1989, Don Lopacinski and his four-ball partner took second place in the nation out of 66 partnerships. In order to do so, Don Lopacinski jokingly said they took the very last qualifier spot in both the regional and sectional rounds before their runner-up finish.
After retirement, Don and Carol Lopacinski left northern California to settle in the heat of southern Utah. Don Lopacinski said St. George was a place they had always considered, having passed through multiple times on various trips.
Over the years, Don Lopacinski has spent countless hours studying the rules by flipping through the pages of golf’s holy script, seeking to know every detail that makes this game function the way it does.
This love for the rules and eventually his role as a rules official came by accident – all stemming from the inability to find an answer. After studying himself and consulting his regional association, no answer could be found. Yet, after this discussion with the association, they suggested that he become a rules official because of his extensive knowledge of golf’s guidelines. From there, the rest is history.
Since being an official, Don Lopacinski has spent countless hours officiating golf tournaments around the world. He lived four years in Bangkok while on numerous rule committees, including the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Royal Trophy- now known as the EurAsia Cup. He interacted with the likes of Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie – two names that most golf fans would recognize. He has even officiated for the Champions Tour and the Web.com Tour’s Q-School here in the states.
However, his favorite level of golf to officiate is at the college level. He enjoys seeing the comradery held between teammates and even the opposing schools. He likes how it provides him the opportunity to teach good players some rules they may never had been aware of.
His ultimate goal, while officiating, is to be a player’s official. He has always wanted golfers to feel they can approach him with questions. Being the recipient to a lot of help himself, Don Lopacinski likes to return the favor to others.
His love and passion for the game and its rules has been inspiring and helpful to all those who he’s met on the golf course. His contribution has been felt all throughout the state in the golf community.
Don Lopacinski, we thank you for your hard work and dedication to the UGA and the sport of golf.