The 2016 Winners of the Excellence in Club Management Awards, co-sponsored by the McMahon Group and Club & Resort Business.
McMahon Group, Inc., the St. Louis-based consulting firm, and Club & Resort Business have announced the 2016 recipients of the Excellence in Club Management (ECM) Awards, established in 1997 by the McMahon Group and co-sponsored since 2005 by C&RB.
The annual awards are selected through nominations submitted on behalf of qualified candidates by other parties. Award recipients are selected solely on the basis of their achievements at the club they currently manage; “lifetime achievements” are not considered.
A Selection Committee of a peer group of club managers conducts the judging for the ECM Awards; McMahon Group and C&RB are not involved in the selection of winners. The Selection Committee for the 2016 Awards was chaired by Jeffrey Kreafle, General Manager/COO of Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Md., and the full list of judges is shown below.
Information on past winners and on how to nominate candidates for future years’ awards can be found at the special website for the ECM Awards, www.clubmanageraward.com.
In-depth articles detailing the achievements that led to the selection of the winners will appear in issues of C&RB throughout 2017.
There was no shortage of candidates when The Polo Club at Boca Raton began its search for a new General Manager/COO in 2011—even though, by Board of Governors President Doug Green’s own admission, it was a time when the club “did not have the best reputation.” Still, many of the best and brightest in the club management field presented themselves as the leader who could take The Polo Club to prominence in southeast Florida’s demanding market—and one stood out from the start. From an introductory phone call that became a two-and-a-half hour discussion on “the philosophy of providing an exceptional member experience,” through a four-month search process involving nearly 50 candidates, Brett Morris emerged as the Board’s unanimous choice, Green reports.
Once selected, Morris quickly delivered what Green calls “a transformation that has distinguished Polo as not only one of the finest clubs in South Florida, but in the U.S.” As detailed in C&RB’s October 2015 cover story (“Flying High Again at The Polo Club of Boca Raton”), Morris revived a stalled master plan to deliver $30 million in capital improvements, and drew on his background as an Executive Chef to establish an exemplary, $14 million food-and-beverage program.
Having any club President fully understand and appreciate all that being a club manager entails is a constant challenge for any General Manager. But in support of Ray Kondziela’s nomination for Excellence in Club Management recognition, no less than six Past Presidents of The Ivanhoe Club submitted enthusiastic endorsements of his candidacy.
In addition to citing how Kondziela’s leadership during his 13 years at the club’s helm was invaluable in managing the club through the recession, growing its food-and-beverage sales, leading charitable initiatives and helping it successfully host its first PGA event, the Web.com Tour’s Rust-Oleum Championship, in 2016, the presidents’ comments also expressed admiration for his unfailingly positive attitude.
“The first time I talked to him, he said: ‘The answer is yes—what is your question?’” said Past President George Reubenson. “[A] passion for excellence permeates everything he does, [and] he always handles the difficult situations in a very professional manner.”
Added Past President Phill Porpora: “I have been fortunate to be a guest at many top-rated clubs across the U.S., and I can honestly say that no other club General Manager pays such attention to every detail. [Ray] is precisely on task and it shows in our operations, attitude of staff, and total product.”
The Academy of Magical Arts was founded in 1962, and its clubhouse, also known as the Magic Castle, opened a year later. From the beginning, it was intended as a private club where magicians, professional and amateur, could get together to share their joy and pride in practicing and appreciating magic in all of its forms. Magician Members (the full-membership category) can also invite friends, family and guests to join as Associate Members, to further the club’s mission of “Introducing, Educating and Fostering the Art of Magic to the World.”
At the end of 2011, however, the only magic in evidence at the Academy was that the club was on the verge of vanishing. Even before a devastating fire swept through the Castle in October of that year that would partially close it for several months, the club had lost $1.5 million in the previous two years.
Five months after the fire, Joe Furlow was hired as the Academy’s new General Manager. A former college football player who had also been on the roster of the San Francisco 49ers and other National Football League teams for two years, Furlow had then coached high school and college football before deciding the hospitality industry might offer better long-term career opportunities. That eventually led him into club management—and when given the opportunity to turn the Academy around, he drew on lessons learned from his football experiences. “I assembled my own team, very similar to a head football coach that brings in his own staff,” Furlow says. “They understood where I wanted to go and believed in my leadership. We wanted to change the culture and fortunes of the club.”
Five years later, the magic has clearly returned to the Academy under Furlow’s direction. Both overall revenues and food-and-beverage revenues ($10.5 million) have doubled, and membership exceeds 5,000, with a 500-person waiting list. “Magic has seen a renaissance lately, on TV and elsewhere,” Furlow notes. “Magicians are being booked again in Las Vegas, a great sign that the Art of Magic is back.” And clearly, the club dedicated to that art is now also in very capable and impressive hands.
Like most of the new downtown stadiums that have been built to help revive cities across the U.S., Detroit’s Comerica Park is a great venue for enjoying major-league baseball. But for many members of the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), the ballgame experience is even better across the street, either at their club’s ground-floor Outdoor Pavilion, or on the rooftop of DAC’s grand clubhouse, which offers perfect views into the park, as well as sweeping vistas that take in all of downtown Detroit and its skyline. The point person for getting the Pavilion ready in time for the Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day in 2014 was Assistant General Manager Charles Johnson, who joined the DAC staff that year.
In 2015, Johnson led the logistical and creative planning for the clubhouse’s centennial celebration, which culminated in a two-day “Party of the Century.” Johnson proved to be the “ideal leader” for these and many other ambitious endeavors, according to DAC Executive Director Ted Gillary, and his role in ensuring their overwhelming success has led members to “respond by proposing new members in record numbers and using the club in volumes never before experienced.”
|A Celebration of Excellence
In addition to presentations at their individual clubs that will be held throughout the coming year, the 2016 Excellence in Club Management winners, along with those from previous years, will be recognized at an Awards Dinner to be held in Winter Park, Fla., at Interlachen Country Club on Thursday, February 9, in conjunction with the 2017 World Conference of the Club Managers Association of America.
This year’s Awards Dinner will be sponsored by ClubCorp, Denehy Club Thinking Partners, ForeTees LLC, Preferred Club, Toro and Yamaha Golf Car.
|Excellence in Club Management Awards 2016 Selection Committee
Jeffrey Kreafle, Chairman, Congressional Country Club
Lynn Butler, Bellerive Country Club
Robert Crifasi, ECM, CCM, CCE, CEC, CPA, New Orleans Country Club
John Dorman, ECM, CCM, The University Club of New York
Robert Jones, ECM, CCM, CCE, Desert Mountain Club, Inc.
Brian Kroh, ECM, CCM, John’s Island Club
Jeffrey McFadden, ECM, CCM, CCE, The Union League of Philadelphia
Joseph Murphy, Thornhill Golf & Country Club
Christine Pooler, ECM, CCM, Augusta National Golf Club
John Schultz, ECM, CCM, Carmel Country Club
Thomas Spellman, ECM, CCM, The Chicago Club
Michael Stanton, ECM, CCM, San Luis Obispo Country Club
Terra Waldron, ECM, CCM, CCE, Desert Highlands Association
Henry Wallmeyer, President & CEO, National Club Association