When Don Donatoni was just 12 years old, he fell in love with the game of golf. He would hit plastic golf balls around the yard of his house and pretend that each of three balls was a famous golf pro — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Whichever ball hit the flagpole in his front yard first won the game. He never imagined that he would one day meet all three of his golfing heroes in person and become a champion in his own right. He went on to win the 2010, 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Golf Association state championships; has qualified for and played in the United States Senior Amateur Championships; and in 2013 earned “Player of the Year” status for the Super Senior Division of the Philadelphia Golf Association.
Donatoni has also learned many life lessons through the game of golf. He discovered the value of a strong work ethic, perseverance and building relationships. This has served him well in the business world, where he is vice president and regional general manager of Aqua Pennsylvania; president of Aqua Resources;and president of soon-to-be Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc.
Donatoni is the son of a hard-working lumberjack and sawmill owner. At 13 years old, he gravitated to the local country club where he hoped to become a caddy. He soon learned that he had to work his way up by shagging balls. “In those days, they didn’t have big machines to pick up the balls on a driving range,” he explained. “Back then, every member brought their own bag of used balls to hit on the range. After every shot, the caddies had to run and pick up the ball and put it back in the empty bag. When the player was finished, I ran back and handed him his shag bag full of balls and he handed me my tip, the first dollar I ever earned! When I got my first caddy job carrying a bag, I was paid $4.50. Today, some caddies make as much as $100 per bag!”
Although it was hard work, caddying did carry some privileges. Every Monday when the club was shut down for maintenance, caddies could play for free. “We played from sun up to sundown until our hands were raw,” recalled Donatoni. “That’s where I developed a real love for golf.”
As a high school senior, Donatoni won the North Jersey High School Scholastic Golf Championship, the first of many victories. While an engineering student at Villanova University, he took his only hiatus from golf in order to keep up with academic demands. After graduating, he was back on the links as a member of White Manor Country Club in Malvern where he won the club championship during his very first year as a member. Since then, he has won 28 club championships; a formidable record that will likely never be broken.
In 2010, he reached the pinnacle of his amateur golf career, winning the Pennsylvania state championship as well as the Philadelphia Golf Association’s prestigious Tournament of Champions in which he surpassed all private club champions in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware with a score of 68.
“To come out on top is something very special that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” Donatoni said that golf has also helped him establish and build long-lasting business relationships over the years. “I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve been able develop or close as a result of playing golf,” he said. “You have the opportunity to become friendly and begin building working relationships with people.
“Golf is a fascinating study of human behavior,” he continued. “You learn a lot about a person over 18 holes. You’ll see how they react to the highs and lows of the game. You’ll gain an understanding of the person’s character, personality, attitude and competitiveness, and you’ll know immediately whether this is someone you can work with and trust in a business deal.”
Golf is also a great escape for Donatoni. “There’s nothing better than being out on the golf range on a warm, windless night in summer hitting practice balls as the sun goes down. It takes you away from the pressures of the world and just makes you feel good. At the same time, the practice helps you stay sharp,” said Donatoni, whose handicap is 0 (scratch).
For More Information:
White Manor's Donatoni completes Super-Senior Division sweep
White Manor's Donatoni tops USGA Senior Amateur Qualifier
Aqua Resources Leadership Team