Bobby "The Pilot" Grabstald
Texas Golf Association Volunteer Spotlight: August
Ten years ago, Bobby Grabstald of Houston was on a golf vacation in South Carolina, playing in the 2009 DuPont World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach. About halfway through the first round, Grabstald turned to one of the members in the foursome and asked about the process of getting involved in golf officiating. Woody Stiltner was certainly the right man to turn to for advice.
Stiltner, who had been a long-time golf rules official along the East Coast, suggested the best way to get started was for Grabstald to get involved with his state golf association. When the Texas native got back home from his trip, one of the first things he did was contact the Texas Golf Association. Several weeks after an initial phone call, Grabstald started his career as a TGA Volunteer at a TGA Qualifier at BlackHorse Golf Club in Cypress.
“I had always been interested in the Rules of Golf,” Grabstald said. “I followed Nick Bramlett (TGA Volunteer since 2007) and Woody Fail (TGA Volunteer since 2002) around BlackHorse that day and it was a learning experience.”
A decade after his first outing at BlackHorse, Grabstald is still on the move, lending a hand wherever he can. He officiates nearly 75 days a year across TGA, USGA, NCAA and PGA tournament schedules. He has served on the USGA Rules Committee since 2014 and most recently officiated the 2019 South Amateur presented by Impact Precision Golf from August 9-11 at Sterling Country Club in Houston.
His influence on the TGA has been felt since his first qualifier in 2009, but Grabstald’s career prior to becoming a TGA Volunteer is nothing short of incredible.
Growing up, Grabstald was fascinated with airplanes and dreamed of one day becoming a pilot. In 1962, after earning a degree from Southern Methodist University, Grabstald enlisted in the United States Air Force. Two years later, his boyhood dreams were realized when he graduated from pilot school.
“I became a B-52 aircraft commander and flew out of three bases in Vietnam,” Grabstald said.
In 1968, Grabstald decided to get out of the military. He became a pilot for Braniff International Airways and worked with them until the company ceased operation in 1982. However, due to cutbacks in 1970, he fell victim to the company’s short-term layoffs. Not being behind the stick wouldn’t do, so during his layoff Grabstald worked for a private jet charter company in Los Angeles called Jet Fleet Corporation.
“I was transferred out to L.A.,” Grabstald said. “During my time with Jet Fleet I flew a bunch of celebrities.”
Among those A-listers were Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Dean Martin, Bob Hope and future president Ronald Reagan, just to name a few.
“Reagan was the Governor of California at the time,” Grabstald said. “He was super to fly for and just the nicest guy.”
Grabstald’s tenure with Jet Fleet also included flying some of the era’s most famous rock groups as they toured around the country. Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night and James Taylor were frequent passengers.
When Braniff recalled Grabstald in 1973, he returned to Dallas and finished his career with the airline.
Grabstald wasn’t just any ol’ pilot, though, he was “the pilot” for some of America’s most iconic figures. He heard stories and spent time with some of the most well-known musicians, actors and politicians of all-time. Grabstald said he is grateful for his experiences and values the lessons learned from his devoted career flying planes.
“In all my experience between sports and flying I realized it’s all about camaraderie and the people you work with,” Grabstald said. “When I volunteer with the TGA it’s not about me. I really like being a part of the teamwork.”
The TGA extends its sincere appreciation to Bobby for his efforts in making our championships a success. The work and dedication from all of our volunteers allows the TGA to grow and continue to support the game we all love.
To volunteer for the Texas Mid-Amateur, Texas Senior Amateur, Women’s Senior Stroke Play and/or any other upcoming TGA tournaments, click here.