Good Life

Local golfer continues to tee up a sweet life in retirement

“I always wanted to work long enough so that I was young enough and healthy enough to still play golf every day,” Don Hastings said about retirement.
“I always wanted to work long enough so that I was young enough and healthy enough to still play golf every day,” Don Hastings said about retirement.

Don Hastings has been retired for more than two decades now and truth be told, he’s gotten pretty good at it.

There’s an art to life post-career that Hastings, a former employee of the State College Area School District computer center, has taken in stride — mostly over the greens of a golf course.

If you’re planning for retirement, thinking about retirement, dreaming about retirement, then here are a few helpful hints pulled from the story of a man who is enjoying some of the best years of his life.

Always leave them wanting more

Hasting’s father retired when he was 65 years old — and promptly died six months later. You don’t have to read too closely between the lines to find the moral of that story.

“I always wanted to work long enough so that I was young enough and healthy enough to still play golf every day,” Hastings said.

Explore new hobbies — or just keep the old ones

Since retiring in 1995, Hastings has stalked the local golf courses like a man possessed.

He started playing shortly after he left the Army and a colleague at SCASD organized an employee golf tournament.

Hastings collected the highest score of anybody on staff — and even a rookie knew that wasn’t something to brag about.

He kept at it though.

“That first time (the ball) goes like it’s supposed to, long and straight, oh that felt good,” Hastings said.

Keep it casual

Having just left the rigid structure of day-to-day life in an office behind, Hastings was in no rush to make any long-term commitments.

Then he met the Burning Tee Golf League.

Founded in 1960 and today boasting more than 135 players, the group is based out of the Penn State Golf Courses and open to men 50 and older.

“I didn’t want to join anything, but when I joined that something just turned inside of me,” Hastings said.

Whenever possible, agree to do absolutely nothing

The first time that Hastings was asked to serve as the league’s vice president, he agreed under the strict condition that he would not be required to do anything except show up and play golf.

Hastings was assured that wouldn’t be a problem. They already had a guy who did all of the work.

And then that guy died.

By the time all was said and done, Hastings knew the Burning Tee Golf League inside and out. He made the schedules, sent out applications for new members and ran every meeting.

The group clearly appreciated his efforts. After two terms as president, the group decided to draft Hastings into the position permanently.

It was a long way to come for a guy who had never considered himself much of a leader.

“Being in the Burning Tee is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s made me a much more well-rounded person,” Hastings said.

It’s OK to watch a little TV now and again

An ample amount of time to watch golf on television is one of the finer aspects of retirement and Hasting was enjoying just such a perk when he had the idea for the Birdie Bucks Challenge.

The premise — as he pitched it to the rest of Burning Tee — was that members could pledge a certain amount of money for every birdie they hit during the course of the season.

Once their clubs had been sheathed for the year, the money would be donated to the Foundation for Mount Nittany Medical Center (Hastings sits on the Foundation for Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Golf Classic Committee).

In 2008, the first year of the challenge, the Burning Tee Golf League raised $3,100 in “birdie bucks.” To date, the league has raised more than $38,000.

“I want to give them $50,000 by the time I retire from the league,” Hastings said.

The 26th annual Mount Nittany Medical Center Golf Classic will be held Aug. 13 at the Penn State Golf Courses.

Reserve the right to change your mind

A while back, Hastings told his compatriots at the Burning Tee League that they should start to consider who they would want to take over as president once he inevitably stepped down.

It was the golf buddy equivalent of “we need to talk” — the prelude to an amicable breakup where the two parties still see one another all the time.

Hasting’s reasoning was that he was only getting older and eventually that was bound to start making itself known in the execution of his duties.

The rest of the club wasn’t so ready to call it quits. They prevailed upon Hastings to continue, and the more he thought about it, the more that he couldn’t imagine not having the tee schedules to return to at the start of each season.

Hastings is much busier than he thought that he would be — but loving it all the same.

“It’s been a good retirement. I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” Hastings said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready