John Mlynarski has been a fixture in the St. Michaels community, and on this golf course, for 30 years. No one has been more intimately involved with the original course on the property and facilitating the transition to what is now Links at Perry Cabin.
A graduate of Penn State, he came to the area in the late 1980s after working as an assistant pro at State College (Pa.) CC, Palmetto Dunes Golf Resort on Hilton Head Island, and Lords Valley CC in Pennsylvania. Mlynarski won numerous accolades along the way. He was the Middle Atlantic PGA Merchandiser of the Year in the resort category four times (2001, ‘07, ‘10, ‘15); Callaway National Club Fitter of the Year in 2003 and 2010; elected to Eastern Shore Golf Magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2014; and inducted into the PGA of America’s Quarter Century Club in 2014. He’s also served on numerous MAPGA committees and captained the Maryland team in the MAPGA’s Capital Cup matches with Virginia twice, proving victorious both times.
In the community, Mlynarski served the Talbot Optimist Club for 10 years, including chairing local golf tournaments. He has taught golf at the YMCA of the Chesapeake, coached local basketball and little league teams, and was varsity golf coach of Saint Michaels High School from 2001-07, during which time he rebuilt a struggling program, leading it to the North Bayside Championship in 2006 when he was selected Maryland Mid-Shore High School Golf Coach of the Year. He and wife Tami have two grown sons, who both work for Callaway Golf in California.
THE MLYNARSKI STORY —
In 1971, my family moved from Oaklyn, New Jersey to State College, PA. I was nine years old, and remember it was a tough transition from living in the city and moving to rural farm country in central Pennsylvania. It was here that I was introduced to the game of golf. My dad purchased a house adjacent to the fourteenth hole on Toftrees Resort.
Shortly after the move, I started helping PGA Professional Peter Duffy pick the driving range and cleaning golf clubs. The professional staff took me under their wings and taught me how to play, introduced the rules and etiquette of the game. I knew this was a special game and all my free time was spent hitting balls on the range or playing on the course. My mom and dad supported my passion and provided me with all the equipment needed to be successful.
I was also fortunate to have two mentors that helped me pursue my professional career and become a PGA member. David Redmond PGA was instrumental in teaching me the about the golf business and affording me the opportunity to teach, merchandise and excel in golf operations. Gene Yanovitch PGA showed me the definition of hard work and the insights of what it takes to run a successful private club and provide great service to the membership. I am grateful to these two gentleman and thank them for their guidance while being a part of their professional staff.
What’s the driving passion in moving things forward at Links at Perry Cabin?
The excitement of watching a new Pete Dye golf course being built. Every day I’m seeing the strategy for drainage, topography changes, the precision of constructing tees, greens, and fairways all being molded into a great golf course. I think this is going to be seen as one of the finest properties in the country, with views of the Chesapeake Bay, amazing waterfowl and wild life, plus a new course from one of the masters of design. I wake up every morning, look out the window, and can’t wait to see what’s happening next.
Maryland has a number of quality courses—how will Links at Perry Cabin separate itself given the flat nature of the golf industry and with overall rounds diminishing?
The new golf course will be the primary feature initially drawling players to the resort, but it will be the experience of staying at both the Inn and Lodge at Perry Cabin that will make guests return. Included in the fee will be cart, greens fee, use of tour-caliber practice facility, even a forecaddie. In addition, there will be a membership component that is also all-inclusive.
The Eastern Shore area of the State has been a major focal point for golfers heading to the greater Ocean City area. What will people find when coming to St. Michaels?
More than eight million people visit Ocean City each year, where there are 20 golf courses. But St. Michaels offers a very different experience, that of a lovely, historic town with small shops and outstanding restaurants specializing in Eastern Shore cuisine, which is much more than crabs — although the crabs are incredible. The area has only the one golf course, which will be open to members and guests of the Inn and Lodge at Perry Cabin. Resort guests also will find fine dining, boating and water sports, spa, fitness center, and pool. There is nothing like it for miles around!
Architect Pete Dye has had a long and storied career—what were your impressions when meeting him?
I first met Mr. Dye at this property more than 10 years ago. He was passing through while working on a project in Ocean City and wanted to see what had come of the course he had help develop with his brother back in 1970. He walked into the Pro Shop, introduced himself, and asked many historical questions about the course. His quick visit turned into a course tour, where I learned about the numerous challenges he faced the first time around. Now there is so much energy and excitement every time he visits the project. Pete Dye is a legend, a true professional, a hall of famer, and I feel truly honored to see his work first hand.
Dye has mentioned the changing nature of the course—from a topography and design prospective. What do you see being the key strength?
When the redesign began in February 2016, it was immediately apparent that major changes were necessary. The old course was extremely flat, with small greens, narrow fairways, and poor drainage. During the redesign, numerous trees were cut down, new mounds were added built from soil out of nine new ponds, and the new greens were much larger and featured slopes and undulation. The new course will be green all the time, and offer a sense of privacy from mounds that create a stadium atmosphere while shielding the course from roads and houses. Also, lengthening the championship tees to over 7,000 yards will entice the best players.
Will golfers be able to play the course without having to stay at the facility? Greens fees range from what to what during the season?
To play the course, you will need to be a member or staying either at the Inn at Perry Cabin or the Lodge ay Perry Cabin. Fees will vary depending on time of year and during the week or weekend.
There’s plenty of discussion among the key golf organizations to “grow the game” what can golf representatives like yourself do in order to reach out to millennials, women, and minorities?
A private resort has several strategies to grow the game. We will offer reduced membership costs to ages 41 and under, encouraging younger players to explore the club experience and the advantages of a private facility. We will offer several play days and clinics for men, women, and juniors with the goal of meeting new people. All of our programs will focus on bringing people together.
Customer service is routinely touted by many in the golf industry yet few really achieve lasting success when attempting to do so. Define the terms and what your approach will be in your new position.
When a guest steps on this property, it is imperative that a team member makes an exceptional first impression. It doesn’t matter if it is an outside staff member, caddie master, or head golf professional. The first encounter sets the tone for the duration of the stay. Every patron has expectations when visiting an establishment. To meet these expectations there should be personal contact, product knowledge, employee confidence, friendly, well groomed staff, and a clean work area. To exceed your customers’ expectations you must be competent, pay attention to details, provide reliability, and promote your company’s image. If you pay attention to the smallest details and exceed your customers’ expectations, you will provide each visitor with the ultimate experience. Increase your customer’s satisfaction is the best way to encourage them to visit again.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally—what would it be and why?
Pace of play. There is nothing worse than taking five hours to complete 18 holes. The Links at Perry Cabin will have five sets of tees: We will recommend the proper tees based on playing ability. Caddies will help players keep moving and provide guidance. From a design perspective, we will keep the rough cut to two inches and the wooded area clear of brush and debris, reducing the time players will search for golf balls.
Best advice you ever received—what was it and who from?
After I graduated college in 1986, my father advised me not to base my decision on money but to choose something I will enjoy doing. When you find a career where you enjoy going to work each day, you’ve made the right decision and will excel in your career.
Editor’s Note: The Links Course will open in 2018 and be available for play for lodging guests at The Inn at Perry Cabin.
For more info go to: www.belmond.com/InnatPerryCabin.com