Les Zimmerman brings a player’s perspective to volunteering.
“I think that helps,” says Zimmerman, a 5-time Hunter Golf Club champion and record 12-time Meriden City Open champ. “I guess I sort of know when to say something and when not to. I’m not a rules official but I’m pretty familiar with the rules. And sometimes I can save players from making mistakes.”
For Les, who played soccer at Southern Connecticut State, and spent a career as an elementary school physical education teacher, athletics, his career and saving people from mistakes go hand in hand. As a teacher he helped introduce kids in Berlin into sports. Among them: professionals like Tim Petrovic, Kyle Gallo, and the Paladino brothers, Brent and Cody.
“I loved my job, the chance to have an influence on kids early and introduce them to fitness and sports and hopefully help them make healthy decisions. It was very satisfying.”
“Sports is my life,” says Zimmerman, 69. “And when I retired after 31 years teaching, it’s difficult to put into words, but I wanted to give something back. Golf is a wonderful game, different from all the others. It’s good to give back to something you feel passionate about. I’m humbled to be honored this way.”
Les worked his first tournament for CSGA after retiring from teaching in 2002. Since then he has worked well over 200 events.
At the CSGA’s Annual Meeting in December, Les was named the 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
Besides his dozen Meriden City titles, Zimmerman has won five Hunter Men’s Club championships and four New England Public Links championship as either a Senior or a Legend. In 2016 he was named one of Meriden’s Sportsmen of Distinction.
When Hunter head pro Bob Tiedemann presented Les with his 12th city title last year, his comment underscored the connection between Les the athlete and Les the volunteer.
“Les cares,” Tiedemann told the Meriden Record Journal. “He does everything around the course and is always donating himself [to Hunter]. He does the flowers and takes the plates and puts names on the trophies. He does everything. He cares. He’s just a great champion.”
Sometimes that willingness to help can get him in trouble. Zimmerman led the Men’s Club in Divot Night in June, when club members repair divots on all 18 holes. He was moving 5-gallon buckets of seed sand when he herniated a disk and had his golf season wiped out. He’s confident that recent surgery will have him back playing in 2019. “But those guys can move their own buckets next year,” he says.
With the same patience and even-keeled temperament that has made him a great volunteer, Les introduced his two sons, Brett and Kyle to the game, and both are accomplished players. Les and Kyle won the Connecticut Father & Son Championship in 2008. Les and Brett were runners-up in 2001, 2007 and 2017. He’s proud that last year Brett, 42, defeated him in the Hunter Men’s Club Championship. “I’m losing distance,” says Zimmerman. “But when I tell my boys that they say, ‘You never had any distance to lose!”
Says Brett: “The biggest difficulty in playing against him is that you’re playing someone you root for, and want to see win. That makes it a lot harder.”
That’s the perfect way to describe the CSGA Volunteer of the Year:
A guy you root for and want to see win.