Posted on November 14th, 2014 1 comment
From sitting in his office to being on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, it’s been quite a journey for incoming Senior Golf Association of Northern California President Jack Sweitzer.
Following his graduation from Seton Hall University in 1967, the Baltimore native landed a job at Arthur Andersen, which at the time was one of the ‘Big Eight’ accounting firms in America. Sweitzer would end up working there for almost 35 years, but like a round of golf, there were plenty of ups and downs along the way.
In 1968, Sweitzer took a leave from Arthur Andersen. With the Vietnam War in full swing, there was a need for men to serve. Sweitzer eventually entered the Navy, where he was fortunate enough to be accepted into Officer Candidates School.
“Everyone that was coming out of school was getting drafted,” said Sweitzer, who grew up in New Jersey. “CPA firms were having a hard time getting people.”
Following his graduation from OCS, Ensign Sweitzer was sent to the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens, Ga. But he wasn’t there very long.
He’d soon be packing his bags to head west to Alameda, where he was to be deployed as a supply officer on the aircraft carrier, USS Hancock.
It marked the first time that the East Coaster would be west of the Mississippi River, albeit his stay in the Golden State wouldn’t be long either. Soon after his arrival in Alameda, Sweitzer and the USS Hancock were headed to the waters off Vietnam.
Following his return, he was set for re-deployment, and it was at that time that he decided to settle down in Northern California. The decision was made easier since he had met Jill at a Navy party, and she would become his first wife.
The two would be married for 31 years until Jill’s death due to cancer. “Our marriage was great and we had a lot of fun,” Sweitzer said.
With his four-year commitment to the Navy still active, Sweitzer got a job at the Naval Supply Department in Oakland. He’d finish his Navy career in 1972, and promptly returned to his career at Arthur Andersen, albeit he didn’t return to Newark. Sweitzer had been hooked by the West Coast bug, and happily accepted a transfer to the Arthur Andersen offices in San Francisco.
He’s been in the Bay Area ever since, now happily living in Orinda with his wife Joyce, who he married in 2004. Ironically, Joyce’s first husband succumbed to cancer.
Describing himself 90% retired, these days Sweitzer’s biggest pursuits include working on his game.
Yet with another new year around the corner, took a break for a Q & A session.
What are you looking forward to as SGANC President?
I’m looking forward to the year. We have a great team. They’re really the ones where the work falls on their shoulders. They’re dedicated and they’re hard workers, but most importantly they’re fun to work with.
There are two big challenges. Every year there are two big tournaments, one in the spring (for 2015 Serrano CC and Granite Bay GC ) and one in the fall (Olympic Club). We have great venues, and we need to set them up properly to make sure the members have a great experience.
How did you first get started with golf?
I started playing as a teenager in high school. I hit balls in our backyard, but all that I did with that was develop bad habits. I pretty much stopped after high school. I didn’t start playing again until 1998. I had joined the Olympic Club in 1977, but that was to play squash and basketball. I was married and working and didn’t have much time for golf. But injuries came up in those other sports. Well, Olympic Club has its two great courses. I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should get back to playing golf.’
What is your greatest golf memory or moment?
My game (Sweitzer carries a 13 index) isn’t about getting my name on a perpetual trophy because I never play in the top flight in any event. I enjoy playing with friends and just being out there. But while I was in Athens during my Navy service I went to the 1969 Masters. The supply corps school had tickets. So we got some and my buddies and I went on Saturday and Sunday to Augusta National. We got to see George Archer of San Francisco win the jacket. That was a lot of fun. In 2015, Joyce and I will attend the Masters again.
Anything you would change with the game?
I guess the thing that bugs me the most is that the rules are hard to understand and interpret. The rules for the pros are fine, but for the average player they ought to simplify it. If smart people got together they could make the rules friendlier for the average player.
What is your favorite golf course and why?
The Lake Course at the Olympic Club. It’s clearly the “jewel in the crown.” I have a love/hate relationship with it. It always beats me up and punishes you for every mistake. But it’s such a grand champion, with such great tradition, and a great example of what a golf course should be like.
What courses are still on your wish list?
There’s so many really good courses that I haven’t played. But what I’d really love to do is go out by myself at Augusta National at daybreak and just walk the course, not play it, and think about all of those great moments at the Masters.
Who was your biggest golf influence?
Growing up, Arnold Palmer was changing the world of golf. He got me to appreciate the game a lot more. Arnie made it exciting for people to watch golf. It was a treat to watch him and I always rooted for him.
There was also the late (former head pro) Jim Lucius at Olympic Club. I bumped into him one day and said, ‘Can I get a lesson?’ He told me that he could do more for me than some of the scratch golfers that were running around there. Jim loved teaching so much. He had high tech equipment for that time, so he was able to film the entire teaching session. Not only each swing, but you’d have audio of Jim telling you what you did right and wrong. Jim truly loved golf. I still have those tapes.
Does your business career intertwine with your golf game?
Not really, although I have to admit there are some events, where you team up with a partner, where I will pair up with former Arthur Andersen associates. That’s one of the advantages of working in a firm like that. It’s people based. A lot have become life-long friends.