Eric Lohman has been the General Manager at Monarch Beach since May 2012 — when OB Sports took over facility management. Before that he was the facility leader at Oak Creek in Irvine and Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda. A PGA Member since 2000, Eric is a long standing board member of the Southern California PGA, a prior recipient of the Retailer of the Year Award for the SCPGA and Golf Professional of the Year for the Metro Chapter. Currently Eric is a brand ambassador for both Nike Golf and Callaway and a three-time tournament director of the Oakley So Cal Golf Open. Altruistically Eric is a founding board member of the Southern California Chapter of Folds of Honor. He is married and has two daughters in elementary school.
After a disappointing intro to professional golf and the hospitality field I was at a crossroads in my young career. I was pondering a career change when I was fortunate enough to spend some time speaking with Orrin Vincent, the founder and now principal of OB Sports.
Big O, as he is known by family, friends, and peers, was up front and honest with me. He told me the path to professional hospitality prominence wasn’t easy, at times not very rewarding and very humbling. Long, strange hours, low pay and tough customers. He suggested I spend some time cross training and working at a few golf clubs in different locations instead of going the easy rout of being an assistant pro at a nice club in my home town.
Pay my dues now, rather than have someone else pay them for me. Learn to serve, instead of waiting for someone to serve you. It made sense and with Orrin’s proficient sales efforts I bought in. Fall was starting as I packed up and moved to Portland from Palm Springs. I began my “training” working as a laborer in the Course Maintenance Department at The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club. I spent the next 11 months, in some suspect weather conditions trim mowing, ride mowing, sodding, and landscaping. All along the way learning the basics of being a Golf Course Superintendent. Those were the coldest, loneliest, and must humble times of my building career. By persevering and learning, while being outside my comfort zone, I progressed through this stage of my “professional boot camp.” What followed were quick promotions and ever changing responsibilities. My time in Portland was worth it, and Mr.Vincent was right, “Pay your dues, learn the ropes and good things will follow.”
MATT WARD: What separates Monarch Beach from your competitors?
ERIC LOHMAN: Our view, staff, year round wonderful weather and cool beach vibe.
MW: Given the impact of The Great Recession which ended in ’09 - what lessons were learned at Monarch Beach regarding the golf market?
EL: If you tried harder, listened to your guests and team members and operated with some flexibility and creativity you could thrive, if not excel.
MW: The leading organizations throughout the golf industry are struggling to find a mechanism that brings more people into the game — especially Millennials. What strategies is Monarch Beach doing on this front?
EL: We have three goals; get more people to try something golf related, get those who have tried golf, but didn’t become “hooked” to try again, and get those “hooked” to come visit Monarch a little more frequently than they would have in the past.
MW: You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
EL: The number of holes that are considered a “standard” round and the amount of time it takes to do it. Traditional 18 Hole Golf is too long and too slow for the masses. 2 hours and 12 holes is more realistic and feasible for most.
MW: One of the most important elements that all facilities are paying close attention to is customer service. Define the term.
EL: Service is the lead mechanism, along with experience, that decides someone’s perceived value for the money and time they committed to play Monarch.
MW: What specific steps does Monarch Beach take regarding customer service when a guest comes to the facility?
EL: We want each guest to receive some genuine service and appreciation by our team members, we want our team members to help them enjoy their round more, and for each guest to enjoy a moment or two that goes above and beyond a regular golf round that they can reflect on once they leave the property.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
EL: Master Instructor Jim Flick taught me to never sit down in front of a guest, never wear a hat indoors and make sure you give more to the guest than what they ask or pay for. Be attentive, respectful, astute and give maximum effort.
MW: How was play this year in ’16 — in terms of total number of rounds — versus ’15?
EL: We have witnessed the same amount of rounds the last three years and anticipate the same next year — just over 46,000. With us we focus more so on the mix, we believe we have discovered the sweet spot with volume. Less promo and discounted member — more group, resort and corporate.
MW: You’ve got one course to play on your bucket list — which one is it and what three people join you in playing there.
EL: I’d have to say Cypress Point and my mom, dad, twin brother. I’ve played a bunch of great courses, including Augusta National, but never Cypress, my brother is my best friend, my parents introduced me to the game.
MW: How do you see the SoCal golf market evolving in the 21st century and what role will Monarch Beach play in that evolution?
EL: I believe it will be good, strong, grow and evolve. We are anticipating some new golf courses, a few renovations, some course closures and some Top Golf type properties. Our SCPGA junior program is one of the best in the country and so is our outreach efforts. 2017′ will bring the Amateur to Riviera and Walker Cup to Los Angeles CC and there is a rumor Tiger Woods will return to the LA Genesis Open on the PGA Tour. That would be a great way to start ’17WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?