M.J. Mastalir got his inspiration from Hale Irwin, his encouragement from Les Fowler and his opportunity to serve from Will Nicholson Jr.—three members of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. Little wonder that M. J. Mastalir would walk in their footsteps as the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s 139th member.
Mastalir developed his love of golf as a caddie for his father, Milton. While at Boulder High, he memorably looped for Irwin during the second of Hale’s three Colorado stroke play championships. Hale won a new set so M.J. bought Hale’s old one.
While a senior at the University of Colorado, golf coach Les Fowler generously kept Mastalir as a member of the 1968 Big Eight championship team. Then, as a CU law student, he was assistant coach while Fowler served in the Colorado State Legislature.
M.J. caddied five times on the PGA Tour (twice for Irwin, thrice for R.H. Sikes), shagged balls for Dale Douglass and filed away tips of all types. But even as he embraced golf for recreation, he put a bear hug on it from a business and administrative perspective.
He joined First Denver Mortgage Co. in 1972, and in 1985, he opened Real Estate Capital Corporation, through which he created the first national model for golf-course lending. To date, he has underwritten and obtained commitments on properties across the country totaling nearly $1 billion. He semi-retired in 2010.
M.J.’s administrative involvement stemmed from his friendship with fellow Denver Country Club member Nicholson, who served as USGA President from 1980 to 1981. With Nicholson’s support, M.J. served on the USGA’s Executive Committee from 1986 to 1993.
He rose to Vice President, chairing the Rules of Golf and other committees, as well as five national championships, including the 1990 U.S. Amateur and 1993 U.S. Senior Open, both at Cherry Hills. Locally, M.J. sat on the Colorado Golf Association Board of Governors from 1986 to 2007, serving as president from 1997 to 1999. When Lowry Air Force Base closed in 1994, he convinced the CGA board to bid on acquiring the golf course from the Lowry Redevelopment Authority.
“Our pitch was that we were going to make it a community asset and develop programs for people,” Mastalir remembers. They won the bid. The property would eventually become the CGA’s celebrated CommonGround Golf Course and nine-hole Kid’s Course. “That was our Louisiana Purchase,” CGA Executive Director Ed Mate says, “and he was our Thomas Jefferson.”
In 1999, Golf Inc. saluted Mastalir as one of golf’s 25 most influential people, along with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and other legends. In addition to Denver Country Club, M.J. belongs to Paradise Valley Country Club and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. He competed in the 1980 and 1985 U.S. Amateurs, the 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and the 1984 and 1987 British Amateurs. “I’ve been very fortunate,” he reflects. “I have worn a lot of hats in golf and found myself always going to nice places, meeting great people.”
1995 Distinguished Service
The one-time Colorado Golf Association president earned recognition for his leadership on USGA executive committee, serving as its vice president.