John Schroeder has quietly become the Rules official and volunteer on which foundations are built
by Tom Cade, Editor-in-Chief
As these things sometimes do, for John Schroeder, who would become known nationally as this region’s pominent Rules official and volunteer, the journey began in the heartland.
Born in Iowa, John was raised in Nebraska after his dad, a salesman of veterinary supplies, was transferred there. John returned to his place of birth to attend Iowa State University, where he would meet his future wife Dwyta. After graduation, the young couple began their life together, with John starting a career working for a tire manufacturer, traveling throughout the Midwest, supplying parts for farm and other equipment.
And then, as these things also sometimes do, the trajectory of John’s life took a turn, and the game of golf became a central focus.
“In 1984 my brother opened a golf retail store in Honolulu,” John recalls. “He did well with it right away and wanted to open a second location. He asked me if I would move to Hawaii and run it for him.”
So, in 1985 John closed the door on one career, and moved to Honolulu with Dwyta and their two young daughters to begin a new chapter.
“It was definitely a big change,” John says. “But I never looked back. It turned out to be a good life.”
With experience gained running the golf store, John eventually became a full-time distributor for Callaway golf equipment. He traveled throughout the South Pacific – Guam, Saipan, Samoa.
“Because of my work with Callaway, I played in several of the Senior Skins Games that were held during the 1990s at Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island,” he said. “Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, all those big names. I was lucky. My only earlier golf experience had been playing in an intramural league in college for credit, where if our golf ball hit the can in the field, we scored.”
John sold his distributorship after 20 years, retiring in 2007 at the young age of 57.
“But I didn’t really like retirement,” he says. “I wanted to find a way to give back to an industry that had been so good to me, and to give back to the sport that I loved.”
As a gift for Christmas in 2008, a friend gave John a copy of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf book.
“From that moment on I was hooked,” he says.
He attended a Rules workshop in Hawaii, and then traveled to Detroit for another workshop. He began officiating at championships and USGA qualifiers conducted by the Hawaii State Golf Association.
In 2012, with one of his daughters now living in Spokane, Wash. and the other one in Seattle, John and Dwyta moved to Spokane to be closer to their four grandchildren. “They were a priority for us,” he says, simply.
The other priority for John was continuing with his commitment to the game of golf.
He reached out to Susie Prugh, the longtime Rules Chair for District 5 (Spokane) of the Washington Junior Golf Association, and offered to volunteer at WJGA events.
He also reached out to Washington Golf and the Pacific Northwest Golf Association.
“In Hawaii, things are pretty laid back,” he recalls with a laugh. “At a tournament, players check in at the pro shop counter and they tell them where the first tee is. But I remember my first time volunteering at a WA Golf championship. It was at Palouse Ridge (in Pullman). I pulled into the parking lot, saw the big championship trailer, the canopies set up everywhere, the flag display and banners, official starter on the first tee, and I thought, ‘Holy smokes, this is the real thing.’”
Over the next decade, John would go on to volunteer as a Rules official at more than 75 events for the PNGA, WA Golf, and USGA qualifiers; over 20 USGA national championships; and WJGA and NCAA events. He has served on the Pac-12 Championship Committee since 2016, as well as on the WA Golf Championship Committee since 2017.
He has attended a Rules workshop every year since 2011 (except for the two COVID years).
Shortly after moving to Washington, John also reached out to Mike Sweeney, the USGA’s western regional affairs director, telling of his desire to become even more involved.
“I’d met John at the WA Golf annual meeting in the fall of 2013,” Sweeney recalls. “Right after that he sent me a follow-up email outlining, in great detail, his volunteer experience as a Rules official so far, and what he’d like to accomplish. It was very impressive, how clear he was in how he wanted to give back to the game. I could tell from the first time I met him that he would be a trusted and dependable volunteer and Rules official for the USGA.”
In 2014, Sweeney helped John be selected for the U.S. Junior Amateur Committee, and John would go on to be instrumental in securing venues in the Spokane area for that national championship’s qualifying. He would serve as a Rules official at every U.S. Junior Amateur held since then, all over the U.S. In 2020, John would join the USGA’s national committee, on which he still serves.
“John’s knowledge of the Rules and championship administration helps him excel as a Rules official, and his relaxed and comforting demeanor around players and his peers has made him an asset to our national championships,” Sweeney adds. “He is the type of volunteer that we want mentoring our new volunteers and up-and-coming Rules officials because he has that knowledge, experience and character that we hope will inspire others to officiate at the highest levels.”
John continued to immerse himself in the region’s golf community. He had joined Spokane Country Club (now Kalispel Golf and Country Club) shortly after moving to Spokane, and soon became a Club Representative for WA Golf.
In 2014, he was asked to join WA Golf’s Board of Directors.
“I remember John asking great questions and wanting very clear expectations of what his role would be on the board,” said Troy Andrew, WA Golf CEO. “It was obvious he wanted to participate, have a purpose, and make a difference for WA Golf. He didn’t want to be just another seat at the table.”
After joining the board, John took it upon himself to visit over 40 courses in eastern Washington to educate them on the services that WA Golf provides.
“I had made it a goal to visit every green grass facility in the area,” John said. “It’s good for people at these golf courses to know that WA Golf is about more than course rating.”
Since 2018, John has served on WA Golf’s Executive Committee as vice-president of District 4. He is also a director with the Pacific Coast Golf Association, representing the PNGA.
“John embodies a unique combination of intelligence, humility and compassion, generously dedicating himself to the betterment of the game without seeking any personal gain,” Andrew says. “He operates tirelessly behind the scenes supporting the staff and golf associations.”
When major changes were introduced to the Rules of Golf in 2019, John conducted more than 20 seminars around the region to explain the changes to other volunteer crews. He has also actively recruited new Rules officials for WA Golf.
“John has been a tremendous asset to PNGA and Washington Golf Championships over the past decade as his enthusiasm for the Rules of Golf and passion for officiating are second to,” said Nate Schroeder, the director of rules and competition for WA Golf.
“I have long admired his dedication to amateur golf and to the Rules of the game, and it has been a pleasure to work alongside him at our championships and on our committee. He has been a tremendous asset to our championships. And beyond golf, John is an incredible person.”
With both having the last name of Schroeder, it became an inside joke between John and Nate whenever someone confused them as being father and son while at a championship.
“My summers have been packed since moving to Washington,” John says. “For more than a decade my time has been devoted to traveling around the country serving as a Rules official or other roles. I didn’t play much golf myself during all that, but I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I got to see all these great young players, and meet so many good people. I encourage others who love the game to find some way to give back to it. By giving back, we recognize and promote the game’s history and its valuable life skills.”
For more than a decade, John has been a fixture in championships at state, regional, and national championships; a friendly and familiar face to players, and a steady and collegial colleague to other volunteers. Dealing with a recent health issue, John has not been able to be on site at these events, and his absence has been felt throughout the golf community.
Cathy and Steve Kay both serve on the WA Golf Executive Committee and regularly volunteer as Rules officials alongside John.
“John and Dwyta have welcomed us into their home on more than one occasion,” Cathy says. “John is an omelet-maker extraordinaire. In the evening the conversation inevitably turned to the Rules of Golf. Surprisingly (at first), Dwyta not only joined in the discussion but displayed a thorough knowledge of the Rules. Apparently, almost every evening, Dwyta is tasked with quizzing John on some aspect of the Rules, which is how we learned why there are two Decisions books on their coffee table.”
How do you measure a man’s impact? By the people he meets? By the friends he makes? By the easy dignity with which he carries himself, which soothes all he comes in contact with?
Through the 15-hour days spent volunteering at a championship, the solo pre-dawn and midnight drives to and from a qualifying site, and simply doing what needs to be done, John has been there, and has done that.
And we are better for it, having worked side-by-side with him.
John will tell you he has been fortunate in his life. There are many others who can now say the same in their own lives, having been fortunate enough to have known him.