Interview with Blake Terry, Head Professional at Bay Hill Club & Lodge

March 22, 2010

When we see that umbrella on the left, we think of Arnold Palmer. With The PGA Tour making its annual stop in Orlando, Florida, we'll be seeing a lot of that umbrella this week. For guys like Blake Terry, that umbrella has become a part of every day life. As Head Golf Professional at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Mr. Terry gives us a peek at his philosophies on running a golf operation. Hopefully you can take a few things from them and bring them to the job.

What are some aspects of your position, that if you didn’t do them well, they would be detrimental to the operation?

I believe one of the most important aspects of a customer service driven facility (high-end private) is follow-through. With the volume we do at Bay Hill in rounds, merchandise sales, lessons, etc. it is crucial for all of our staff to finish whatever tasks that we have been given. When tasks and responsibilities are left undone, we loose customers.

In your eyes, what does it mean to “serve”? What are the best ways that you have found in your experience, to serve the members and their guests?

One thing that makes Bay Hill special is the unusually low employee turn over rate. Through out our facility you will find years of "Bay Hill" experienced staff members. This allows us to develop relationships with our members, members' guests, and our lodge guests. Through these relationships we are able to anticipate their wants, needs, and preferences. I believe this enhances their experience and keeps them coming back.

What do you look for in a potential assistant professional?

I like to look for an individual that has an upward trajectory in the golf industry. What I mean by this is someone who has a strong desire to improve themselves daily as a golf professional. They should have a great attitude/demeanor, interpersonal skills, problem solving ability, organization, follow-through, and playing ability.

What kind of advice would you give a young assistant professional?

Find a mentor that can teach you the intangible aspects of being a golf professional. Learn what networking really is and the value of it.

Can you describe the experience of hosting the Arnold Palmer Invitational?

Being a part of the Arnold Palmer Invitational each March is an awesome experience. There are months of planning and so many people that play a part in making the tournament a success. To see the players have a great week and the fans that come out to see the tournament and golf course each year is special. However, having the opportunity to work for Mr. Palmer and see him on a regular basis is better than words can describe. He is the King!

Some clubs don’t have an assistant professional hierarchy, i.e. First Assistant and/or Second Assistant and so forth. Do you buy or sell the hierarchical concept for assistants?

At Bay Hill we have a Director of Golf, Head Professional, and 4 Assistant Professionals. We do not title our assistants as 1st, 2nd, so on. However, there are still factors such as seniority/tenure and experience that determines certain responsibilities throughout the year.

How do you draw the line between being your direct reports friend and their boss?

First and foremost I am there boss and I must conduct myself in a way that earns their respect. Even though I have a good relationship with most of the staff (6 plus years with some), I do not interact with them away from the club and/or employee events. This keeps the relationship on a professional/work basis.

Its easy for many to assume that once you’re a PGA member, a head professional position just falls in your lap, and that simply isn’t the case. When an assistant of yours works hard for a lengthy period of time and achieves his/her Class “A” status, and asks you “What’s next?” What would you explain to them?

Networking plays a huge role in getting a Head Professional/Director of Golf position. It is important to build strategic relationships with others in the industry so that you are aware of positions as they come available and have an inside track on getting your foot in the door at that facility.

During your different experiences, how have you approached and handled the ebbs and flows of the fluctuating wants and needs of the members and guests?

I believe that this is one of the best parts of the job. You are able to build relationships with your members, which allows you to anticipate their wants and needs. It is extremely rewarding when you make their day.

How has the economic downturn affected your operation and have you taken any measures to combat the effects? If so, what are the approaches you have taken and have they worked?

We have been affected like everyone else in this tough economic climate, however one thing we have done over the summer to help our business long term is renovate the golf course. We were closed from May 12th through September 6th to rebuild our tees, bunkers, and greens. I believe these changes will have a positive business impact for years to come.