Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and the duties of your position.
Mike Mazzaferri: Cal-Mazz Golf Management is operator of Sierra Sage Golf Course. It is owned by Washoe County, but we lease it. When we took over this course it was scheduled to close Nov. 1 of 2009 after the county commission voted to close it. We breathed life back into it and made it a viable business again. I also do insurance consulting in the golf business for other golf facilities and owners. My typically work week is split between golf course insurance consulting for an insurance company that has over 150 clients in eight western states, and I do about 30 or so hours here at Sierra Sage.
NNBW: What led to the idea of taking over management of Sierra Sage?
Mazzaferri: I’ve been fortunate in my golf career — I’ve worked in the public sector and at resorts and private clubs. I was general manager at Hidden Valley Country Club, and I left to help my wife move the First Tee program forward. I got a phone call from a customer of mine when I ran Brookside and Rosewood Lakes in the ‘90s. It was a pretty emotional plea to not let the course close. I looked at it and came out here with my wife, and she said, “Are you nuts?” But we took it over.
NNBW: What were the main challenges you had to overcome as you took over management of Sierra Sage?
Mazzaferri: Play was down, and conditions weren’t great. But for the most part it was changing the culture here, the way people who played here and the employees thought about it. Now, we have got some very loyal followers.
NNBW: After you completed your first year, what challenges were presented from Year 1 to today?
Mazzaferri: A lot of the same challenges facing other golf courses: Play is down, revenue is down, and the cost to play golf is coming down. Even if you did more rounds, you weren’t going to do the revenue that most of these facilities did in the old days. Our biggest challenge was trying to do more with the golf course and the facilities than we could afford to do — we were stretching our dollars as far as we could. Denise and I wear a lot of hats. We manage the restaurant and the golf pro shop. I take care of the maintenance and am on the course every day.
NNBW: Do you get the chance to play much?
Mazzaferri: Way less than I have played in a long time. Doing the insurance consulting and golf operations has taxed my time, but I enjoy golf now more than ever because I don’t get to play as much. And I mostly play with my son and daughter.
NNBW: How many holes-in-one have you notched?
Mazzaferri: Seven — one was at a Par-4 in at the Genoa Resort Course.
NNBW: What’s your favorite golf memory?
Mazzaferri: My dad and brother and I on the first tee at St. Andrews. My dad was so nervous he could hardly tee up his ball. But he just whacked it right down the middle, the best shot he hit all day. My brother, a 2 handicapper, topped it like 30 yards. Sadly, my dad passed away last May, and my brother and I were in the hospital with him. He was almost gone and was incoherent, and I said, “Dad, remember when we were at St. Andrews?” He opened his eyes for a second and said, “I outdrove Ernie!”
NNBW: What’s new for Cal-Mazz?
Mazzaferri: We are keeping an eye on other golf opportunities. We tried to purchase Genoa Lakes last year, but it fell apart. We would like to get another golf facility when the time is right. What’s mostly new is I am running for City Council Ward 4. It is a new thing for me. I have lived here my whole life and feel like I have something to add.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Mazzaferri: I was eight years old, and I helped pull carts at Lackland Air Force Base Golf Course in Texas. They used to buy me lunch or give me quarters to help pull carts. My first real job was at 14 years old at Ohio State University’s golf course picking up range balls.
NNBW: What’s your dream job?
Mazzaferri: I’m doing my dream job — I love the golf business. I love serving the public and fixing something that some say can’t be fixed.
NNBW: How do you spend time away from work?
Mazzaferri: Sadly enough, we go on golf vacations and play golf everyday. It is kind of our escape. My wife is a PGA member, and we love to play golf and are very competitive.
NNBW: Who is the better golfer?
Mazzaferri: She is — but I am a grinder. Give me a little seam and I’m going to beat you.
NNBW: What is your favorite course?
Mazzaferri: Cypress Point Club in Monterrey. Locally it’s White Hawk Ranch in Graeagle and of course Edgewood Tahoe.
NNBW: Who is your favorite golfer?
Mazzaferri: Jack Nicklaus. I am from the same hometown. I like how he thought his way around a golf course and used what he had.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Mazzaferri: My mom says I went to the golf course when I was 8 years old and never came home. I’ve never considered anything else.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Mazzaferri: No. I would still come to the golf course and teach a little golf. I’d have to make it appear that I had no money, because my kids are at the age where they need a lot of money. I’d have to fake it.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Mazzaferri: We chose northern Nevada because I came to school here when I was a 17-year-old freshman at University of Nevada. I was a little too young to go to school and had a hard time with it. But I fell in love with the mountains and the climate and the people of Reno. We love it here.
To suggest a candidate for NNBW’s weekly question and answer column, look at our editorial calendar (http://apps.nnbw.com/utils/pdfs/9683736R.pdf) and contact reporter Rob Sabo at email@example.com or call 775-850-2146.