Jimmy Terry has been on the management side of the golf business for more than 25 years, and recently took over as general manager of the PGA of America’s flagship property – PGA Village in Port St. Lucie. The appointment brought him back to Florida for a second time, as he worked at TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz over a decade ago. Terry, 52, more recently worked for TPC San Antonio and TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and chatted from the road about the attraction of PGA Golf Club, the ultra-competitive South Florida market and Googling his future employer.
VISIT FLORIDA: You and I have something in common; we both lived around Tampa Bay, left the state and then came back. Outside of the job, what was the attraction in coming back to Florida?
TERRY: We had a great experience when we lived in Florida previously, obviously on the other side of the state in a little different market than over here. Now my daughters have grown, so it’s really empty-nest time for Rose and me, so the opportunity to come here and be the general manager and lead my association’s flagship property was really, really exciting.
VISIT FLORIDA: You’re in one of the most competitive golf vacation markets in the country. What are the challenges to get people through your doors as opposed to so many of the other resorts that are around you?
TERRY: Competition is good, it’s good for all. It’s great to be in an area where people are already predisposed to come, it’s already a known commodity and attraction that if you want to do a golf vacation or stay for the winter, that this area is one of the leading areas in the country. The other positive is the ability to use the PGA brand and all it brings to the table to help us attract clients and members. Once you get past that, it falls on us at the local level to provide a superior product, a superior experience that leaves the guest anticipating their next trip back as they’re pulling out the door, so to speak.
VISIT FLORIDA: You would know something about a brand, working in the TPC network for so long. How much does that really resonate with golfers?
TERRY: It gives you some credibility because the brand has brand equity. The PGA of America is known as the largest working sports organization in the world with 27,000 members and apprentices; we are the first contact of golf day-to-day for millions of golfers around the country. The brand, whether it’s the PGA Tour or PGA of America, there’s equity built in those brands already, a foothold if you will into the client. That also comes with it some serious promises for the guest, for us that means we have to provide superior product, and once those guests appear, we have to live up to the promises that the brand makes – quality service, conditions and a great PGA experience.
VISIT FLORIDA: What are some of your favorite parts of the Village?
TERRY: In terms of the golf courses, there’s three different feels when you play at the golf club. The Wanamaker golf course has a very special sort of dynamic to it, while the first time I went on the Ryder course I felt like it reminded me a lot of North Carolina, which kind of separates it from the others. And the Dye course is completely different from the other two. So having three different experiences on the same piece of property is a great advantage.
VISIT FLORIDA: What about the instruction facilities? You’ve got all the state-of-the-art stuff, plus so many PGA professionals on staff? That separates you from some other big resorts too.
TERRY: Orange County National has something similar to this, but there’s really very few places in the country that have an asset like a 35-acre learning center. So whether it’s the tee space, the short-game area, the practice hole, all the different putting greens that we have, the building, the technology, all of that is really remarkable and maybe I’d say best in class. The thing that really sets our Center for Golf Learning and Performance apart, though, is our people and instructors. We have a tremendous dynamic of different instructors, different instruction styles; we have top-50 junior instructors, we have more senior instructors, we just have a cornucopia of instructors that you can choose from -- to find one that fits your style of learning is easy to do. We have this great 35-acre center, but it’s really people that make it go.
VISIT FLORIDA: As a general manager, do you ever just Google your golf course’s name and read reviews and what people are saying?
TERRY: As part of my interview process, I had actually never been to PGA Golf Club, so for me a big part of what I studied up was looking at the website and different things like TripAdvisor. There’s some reputable websites that you can go on and depend on – we just received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor for the Dye course and the Wanamaker courses – some of those are very important. I used those to prepare myself.
VISIT FLORIDA: You were hired without ever seeing the property before?
TERRY: That’s right. I had followed it closely through my career, I knew when they started to develop it back in the day, I thought that was something that was very positive for our association, and I stayed up to date with it. But I had never been here.