Lake Forest, IL
PGA Master Professional Vince Juarez has been the general manager of Deerpath Golf Course in Lake Forest, Illinois for three years. He brings over 20 years of golf management experience to the property and is the 2014 recipient of KemperSports’ James R. Seeley General Manager of the Year award. Vince resides in Gurnee, Illinois, with his wife Laura and two sons Adam and Ryan.
THE JUAREZ STORY —
I started caddying at LaGrange Country Club in LaGrange, Illinois, in the 7th grade. Like any 13 year old, I wanted to earn money so I could go to the movies with my friends or buy a video game. It was at LaGrange Country Club where I found myself trying to learn the game. Watching and working with the professional crew at LaGrange Country Club and lead by PGA Master Professional Bill Johnstone, I knew that golf was a game that I wanted to be involved with. I met so many people who I still stay in contact with to this day, almost 30 years later.
When not caddying, I would constantly play golf. My grandmother lived on a golf course in Fontana, Wisconsin, at the time and I would start playing at 8 a.m. and keep playing until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It was only a nine hole course, so I would play 27 to 36 holes every day.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I love the game of golf and want others to love it too.
What mistakes do many clubs make regarding in making plans for the changing seasons?
Too many clubs in the north hang it up in the winter, thinking there aren’t revenue opportunities when the weather is cold.
What steps can golf properties do to build activities and financial support during the slower off season time frame?
Clubs can build for a successful golf season and put programs into place to drive revenue during the winter. Activities such as cross-country, skiing, snow shoeing, cooking classes, wine tastings and holiday gift wrapping are all things that can bring in business. Building support and rapport with your customers leads to a successful golf season.
What are some of the hottest trends in the clubhouse this season?
On hard goods side Callaway Golf has been a hit, while Vineyard Vines has been successful in apparel. I have seen a trend toward healthier foods in the restaurant and grille.
What differences are there between male and female needs regarding what works for their involvements?
Everyone is different. I don’t see specific differences between males and females, but what I do see is more working parents playing golf. Golfers play for different reasons. Some play for the social aspect, while others play for exercise or to be competitive. Being able to provide programming and course availability for all segments is important.
When you visit a club what are among the first items of interest you notice?
I notice the customer service. Have I been greeted? Is the staff friendly? I also notice the signage and cleanliness of the facility.
Golf facilities routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow?
I want customers to feel like they belong and are wanted at the facility. o me, customer happiness is everything. I believe that we as a team at Deerpath need to work together to make sure that each customer receives an honest and friendly interaction with the staff. It starts by greeting people by name and making them feel comfortable. I remind the staff that everything matters to the customer. The experience starts when customers drive onto the property and doesn’t end until they leave.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would continue to modify golf courses to relate to all skill levels. While there are quite a few golf courses that have added tee boxes to bring in beginners and juniors, too many courses still have the old red, white and blue tee boxes with courses playing far too long for beginners and/or juniors. Adding tee boxes at a shorter length can open up courses to a whole new clientele while building the game and decreasing the time it takes to play a round.
The major golf organizations are all searching for ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them what you advise they be doing?
I recommend continuing to make courses family friendly. Spending time with family is important to everyone. Creating more 3 and 6 hole loops on the golf course will get golfers out for a quick round before heading off to other activities. It will also attract the beginner golfer looking to dial in their game before playing a full nine. Additionally, adding short game areas where families can practice will attract other families. If kids play golf, moms and families will play more golf. The facility needs to be welcoming to women. Having LPGA events on the television and having other more seasoned women play with women, who are looking to join leagues, can help make everyone comfortable.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
If you make it fun for parents to play, the whole family will play. From my wife, Laura Juarez.
Photos from the Deerpath Golf Course Facebook pageWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?