Golf 03

Theodore "Ted" William Zahn

February 17, 1937 ~ October 5, 2021 (age 84)


Aberdeen, SD-Private Memorial Service for Theodore “Ted” William Zahn will be held Wednesday, October 13, 2021, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Inurnment will be in Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery. A Public Celebration of Life will also be held at 5:00 pm at Moccasin Creek, 4807 130th St. NE, Bring your Ted stories!

On October 5, 2021, Heaven gained a fine gentleman. Theodore (Ted) William Zahn, age 84, of Aberdeen, South Dakota was born on February 17, 1937, in International Falls, MN to Marie Zahn (Nulle) and Frank Zahn. At the age of nine Ted found his passion for golf when he became a caddie at the Aberdeen Country Club to help support his family. By 12 he was the caddie master and would work for his mentor, Dean Shortridge, through college.

Ted was a multi-sport athlete at Aberdeen Central and led the Eagles to multiple state high school golf championships. He also qualified as one of the top junior golfers in South Dakota to play in the National Jaycee Junior Championship.

After high school he joined the Air Force to “get out” and would enjoy four years stationed mainly throughout the western United States. While serving his country he found the love for animals, especially dogs. He would become an assistant to the base veterinarian and take care of the guard dogs and officers’ pets. No animal was more special to him than his “BP” (beloved pet) Sandy.

After his time in the Air Force, Ted attended Northern State Teachers College on the GI Bill and worked various jobs. One of those jobs was as the city dog catcher (because the job came with a truck) and another was traveling around the area teaching kids how to use a trampoline (yes, he did a lot of demonstrating). During all this time he continued working at the Aberdeen Country Club for Dean Shortridge. As a member of Northern’s golf team, he would win the conference golf champion three times and later be inducted into the Northern State Hall of Fame in 1993. He also served as the Wolves golf coach in the 90’s, winning numerous conference titles and taking the team to the national championship.

He married Jeanne VanderHoek in 1963. Upon graduation, Ted and Jeanne began their teaching careers at a high school in Silverton, Oregon where they started their family. Three boys, Dean, Bret, and Ryan, where born to the delight of Ted and apprehension of his wife. He earned his master’s degree in education from Oregon State University.

After 15 years in Oregon as a teacher, administrator, athletic director, basketball coach, and of course golf coach, Ted took a job as the Director of Education for the National Golf Foundation and moved the family to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. In this position he traveled the country teaching coaches and teachers how to teach the game of golf. Soon, he became the Director of Western Operations for the National Golf Foundation and relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona. He authored a booklet for the NGF entitled “Easy Way to Learn Golf” which is still in circulation today.

In the early 1980’s, TZ started Executive Golf Outings with former PGA Tour professionals Jim Ahern and Danny Edwards providing first class golf experiences and instruction for corporate customers at top destinations around the country. He continued to hone his skill as a terrific golf instructor while working with the top teachers in the game.

In 1990, Ted was asked to become the Golf Instructor at Moccasin Creek Country Club back in his hometown of Aberdeen. In 1991, he became the PGA Head Professional at Moccasin Creek. Here he would continue his career as an outstanding teacher and golf course operator giving thousands of lessons to members and guests, and taking great pride in the fact that he could tell who someone was at a distance just by their golf swing.

In 1996 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and elected to switch positions with his son, becoming the PGA Assistant Professional at Moccasin Creek, which really meant he still got his way in most things concerning the golf operations. Courageously battling cancer for 25 years, it was sepsis that ultimately took his life.

Ted married Becky Swingler in 1999 after a long and wonderful courtship. They would remain constant companions spending the winter months in Arizona. They loved watching sporting events together, and he affectionately called her his “Sports Babe.” Becky was his biggest advocate and caretaker right up to the end.

As Ted slowed down with the trials of his long battle with cancer, he continued to teach the game at Moccasin Creek and help with tournament operations, and “career” counseling, until recently. Ted was a Life Member of the PGA of America and proud that his son and grandson followed him into the business. In 2012 he was inducted into the South Dakota Golf Association Hall of Fame. His second HOF induction.

He constantly studied the golf swing and tried to absorb as much as he could about how to hit a 1.68-inch diameter ball with the perfect spin, using an implement ill-suited for the job. He will always be remembered for giving the joy of the game of a lifetime to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Ted loved his family with great enthusiasm and took pleasure in all that they did and accomplished. He always wanted to know about them, and never wanted to talk about himself. He taught his three boys how to be dedicated to family and career by example, not speeches; and what a great example he was.

The family is grateful that they had the opportunity to spend quality time with him during his final days. He was wise and funny right up until the end. He wanted to relay that he had a great 84 years, and it was finally time to “go to that big fairway in the sky.” When asked what he wanted to be said about him in his obituary he replied, “He did his final sneak.”

Ted was preceded in death by his parents, stepfather Les Rivett, and brothers David Zahn and Frank Zahn.

Grateful for having shared his life are his wife Becky Zahn of Aberdeen, SD. Sons Dean (Sara) Zahn of Aberdeen, Bret (Michelle) Zahn and Ryan (Elaine) Zahn of Scottsdale, AZ. Stepchildren Jeff Swingler and Christa Swingler of Aberdeen. Grandchildren Tyler Zahn, Aubrey Zahn, Spencer Zahn, Quinn Zahn, and Gabriel Zahn. Step grandchildren Taylor (Austin) Bell, Camryn Wipf, Dilyn Swingler, Baela East, and Nyjah Lentz. Stepbrother Ron Rivett. 

Ted wanted any memorials to go to Junior Golf Aberdeen (4807 130th Street NE) and Aberdeen Area Humane Society (2511 385th Ave S).

Carlsen Funeral Home and Crematory of Aberdeen has been entrusted with arrangements.

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