by Chelsea Keenan
Published at Business Record.com
Tell me a little bit about what you do.
The role of a country club has evolved in the past 20 years to become a much more family-oriented place, and that’s because the roles in families have changed – you’ve got dual income earners, or in lots of cases, Mom is the sole breadwinner of the family, you’ve got Dad coaching the soccer game on Saturday, the day when he used to play golf.
So now, you’ve got to have things for all family members to enjoy, and I think the Wakonda Club was really ahead of the curve. We’ve got the junior golfers program and tennis programs. We also focus on trying to dispel the myths associated with country clubs, which are members have to be rich, have a certain occupation or a certain status, they have to have a big house. We’ve made it much more affordable and continue to focus on membership.
What’s an average day like for you at the Wakonda Club?
This is an extremely seasonal position. When we’re open in the summertime, every department is up and running, and we’ve got over 150 employees. There’s full-scale golf, tennis, swimming, programming, so my job is putting out a lot of different fires.
We’ve also got a lot of younger employees, most of which work here during the summers in college, so we teach them how to entertain and serve.
That’s what I try to do: train, inspire and motivate them in the short time they’re here. In the winter, we have an extremely active banquet business, whether it’s a large single event or multiple smaller events. We’re very busy during the holiday season.
When did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf at 5 years old. My grandfather and mom were both very accomplished golfers. And out of all the kids, no one really took to it but me. I played through my childhood, and I was on the varsity golf team all four years in high school, and then I played all through college.
When did you decide to make it your career?
After college, I got a PGA apprenticeship at a country club in Cedar Rapids. And then I became a Class-A professional of the PGA in 1996. My first head job was at Eagle Ridge, a resort in Illinois. Shortly after I started there, Troon Golf, a worldwide golf management company, took over there, which set the course for many, many moves over the next few years.
I moved nine times in eight years. During that time, my wife and I had gotten married and started having kids, and (all the moves) made it very, very challenging. We’re going on our seventh year of being back in Iowa, and we hope to stay here.
How did you feel when you were named the Golf Professional of the Year?
There are over 150 other PGA professionals in Iowa that are so much more deserving and more accomplished. So to receive this award at this time, I was so honored. To be honored by your peers is the greatest compliment ever.
What are some benefits of doing business on the golf course?
I think the reason why so many business happenings do happen on a golf course is because you can learn so much about your business partner through 18 holes of golf. You see if they follow rules, you see if they can laugh at themselves, you see if they are a gracious winner. It’s a very intimate setting where you’re enjoying a game that can’t be perfected, and you’re always humbled when you leave, it doesn’t matter who you are. You can enjoy someone’s company and find common ground that helps you develop a relationship over something that you can both still play when you’re 90.
There’s many reasons to join a country club, and one is definitely to increase your business contacts. Whether it’s through stopping by for a drink, being out on the course or taking part in some of our programming where you can meet new people, there’s no doubt that you can augment your business by being at a country club.