February 2024 Athlete of the Month
By Del Moon, NSGA PR Specialist
Matt Meister, 59
Many golfers will tell you they have a love-hate relationship with their sport. Matt Meister did not come to appreciate why some call it “a good walk spoiled” until midlife when he took up the game searching for something to keep him moving.
“When I see Tiger Woods hit one off the course and see the look of frustration on his face, I realize you can never master this game,” Matt humbly states.
“I didn’t discover my passion for golf until I was in my 40s,” he adds. “My body had taken a beating over the years with all my sports pursuits. Golf allows me to challenge myself to be the best I can be. I wish now I had started earlier so I would be more flexible and malleable.”
The Scottsbluff, Nebraska, native had asthma as a child and was not very big. He attended a large high school and was too little to make the varsity teams. But the competitive urge was strong, and Matt enjoyed playing youth baseball and umpiring with his dad.
“I always loved sports but didn’t have much of a chance,” he recalls. “Then, I grew two inches and gained 50 pounds in my freshman year at the University of Nebraska. I found volleyball, a sport that I loved that not that many kids did.” Matt played it as a club sport for three years, and then after college he joined a co-ed city league and played with his future wife. “Kim was a 5’3” 120-pound center, and I was an outside hitter, so we made friends pretty quick.”
Matt, known as “The Real Estate Meister” in his profession, continued to play both volleyball and softball for two decades until life priorities changed. “I got to the point that my kids were into their sports and I didn’t want to miss any of their ball games. I hung up my cleats to coach my daughter in soccer and volleyball, my son in baseball, and my son in flag football.”
He also sustained a shoulder injury playing volleyball that required reconstruction and diminished his ability. Matt started looking for an activity that he could continue for the rest of his life.
“A friend who I don’t know whether to thank or curse talked me into trying golf,” he chuckles. “He said you don’t have to be good, it’s all for fun. He lied to me because the first three weeks I was completely embarrassed. As an athlete I could not do it lightly, so I worked my butt off until my partner and I were competitive in every match. That was when I fell in love with this darn sport!”
Finding the Senior Games
Matt thought nothing of Senior Games until told about it two years ago. “Then they said the entry age was 50 and I was already 58. My buddy and I qualified at the Nebraska Senior Games in Kearney, but he decided not to go to Nationals,” he says. “Kim and I had been to Pittsburgh the year before to see the ‘Frozen Four’ college hockey tournament. We loved the city so much that the idea of me playing some golf there was fun.”
Matt’s three-day competition at the 2023 National Senior Games presented by Humana reinforced his sense that golf was both a blessing and a curse. He was surprised with how challenging the Montour Heights golf course was. “It’s super hilly. There’s even one hole where the rise from tee box to the green was 120 feet,” he notes. “That course beat a lot of decent golfers!”
He managed to finish in the middle of the pack. “The guy who won my 55-59 age group finished 50 strokes ahead of me, and the lowest score was 75 below me!” he observes. “If you’ve got that much of a spread between the top and the bottom, people who think they would not qualify need to go to their state games and try.”
Matt and Kim enjoyed the entire experience. “Golf requires several hours a day, but we made a point to get out and see Pittsburgh,” he says. “We made friends and saw the same going on all over the Senior Games. That’s one of the things I loved so much about this.”
Matt has been working harder on his game to make sure he qualifies to go to Des Moines for the 2025 National Senior Games. Despite his limitations he is mulling over adding another sport. “My shoulder is still messed up, but I would love to play volleyball and help a team in Senior Games.”
The Drive to Stay Active
When asked why he has been so motivated to keep playing, Matt jokes he does it to look good to his wife, who is also active and teaches kickboxing. Then he offers the deeper reason. “My dad had five bypasses when he was 62,” he says somberly. “My older brother had two stints in his heart by the time he was 45 and has now had a double bypass. Both of my grandfathers and both of my grandmothers died of heart attacks.”
“My numbers, according to my doctors, are not like any of theirs,” he continues. “You can’t beat heredity, but on the other hand I have never smoked, drank lightly and did not gain a lot of weight or get inactive.”
While the competitive fire still burns inside, Matt has gained some perspective. “Sometimes when I was younger I would get grumpy if I didn’t win. Now, if I get beat by two strokes but feel like I played pretty well, then I’m happy.”