Brandon De Groote grew up playing at the course he describes as one of the best in southwestern Ontario
Story by Pat Payton | St. Marys Independent Newspaper
While growing up in St. Marys, Ontario, he learned to play golf and compete with his friends at the local course.
His familiarity with the golf course will only help Brandon De Groote as the new Director of Golf Operations at St. Marys Golf and Country Club. De Groote, 29, officially began his new position on April 12 of this year. "We are excited to introduce Brandon as our new Director of Golf at the Club," President and General Manager Matt Staffen announced to the Club's membership community in March. "Brandon brings leadership experience and a passion for golf that will help grow the game in our community."
"It's an operations position," De Groote replied when asked how he sees his role at the golf club. "In the past, golf courses have hired (golf) pros to run their Pro Shops. But now, the industry is switching over to more of an operational function . . . with a focus on the bigger picture and overall quality customer service."
Wearing different hats
De Groote admits that he'll be wearing different hats as Director of Golf Operations. "It will involve planning different programs for both the present and the future, overseeing Golf Shop operations, developing the golf community, managing tournaments and other golf functions, overseeing the various golf leagues, managing people, all the while ensuring we're profitable, so that the golf course is a core piece of the community for many years," he explains. "What I've been hired for, at the Club, is running the business, operations, and the customer service aspects of golf."
Another of De Groote's top priorities will be focused on customer retention and keeping the G&CC members coming back. "I think that's one of the most important parts of the job because we're a semi-private course and we have to make sure all members, plus the public, are happy, with what we offer," he explained.
"One of the biggest things I'm excited about is growing the game within the community. Right now, golf is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in North America and is poised for great success. We just need to capture this momentum and run with it. I love the game of golf and I want to share that with everyone, to make sure that we retain our members and have this high-member rate, year after year. I think it's an exciting opportunity for golf."
The Director of Golf Operations also hopes to make the game "a full-year experience" for local golfers. The club is planning to expand its full-service golf simulator package, starting in November of this year. "We're going to be doing some renovations to the patio and move the golf simulator outside this coming winter, with an enclosed, four-season heated canopy," he says. "We will use the patio in the summer months for the restaurant, then switch over in the winter and use the patio for the simulators." He also plans to run golf leagues, lessons and small tournaments through the simulators.
Brandon De Groote can certainly lean on his educational and business background in his new job. He spent the past four and a half years in private education in Vancouver, running two Sylvan Learning Centres as Centre Director. "I'm taking that experience and applying it to a different industry, in a unique way," he says.
De Groote can also rely on his post-secondary education. He attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, studying kinesiology and sports science. He completed a business management degree as well.
In addition, De Groote earned a Bachelor of Education degree at Western University in London.
He is looking forward to his new position at a course that he describes as "one of the most beautiful and well-kept" in southwestern Ontario. He has fond memories of competing in Ryder Cup events in 2014, 2015 and 2016. "I spent the majority of my elementary, high school and university years at the course, whether it was playing recreationally with friends or in competitive events such as the Ryder Cup," he says. "My obsession for the game has continued into my adult life, and I'm excited to capture the momentum that the sport has created over the past couple of years.
"Due to the pandemic, outdoor recreation has become even more popular, and we're hoping to harness that energy, in a safe way. Being out on the course is quiet and peaceful, and it's exactly what we need right now."
- Brandon De Groote has a solid team working under him, which will grow in future years as his role expands. Today, they include: Golf Operations Supervisor Rebecca Parsons, Assistant Supervisor and Golf Coach Kellen Fifield, and several other Golf Operations staff.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent provincial lockdown, some tournaments at the Club have been moved to the fall – including the popular Ryder Cup competition and the Sr. Men's Invitational. Check the golf club website for 2021 tourney dates.
- During his time in Vancouver, De Groote continued to golf regularly each summer. "There's some nice courses in the Surrey area," he says. "The Redwoods Golf Course and Swaneset Bay Resort and Country Club were my two favourites. Vancouver has a few public courses, too, which were fun to play."
- De Groote says he's excited to be back in his home town. "St. Marys is home to Candra and I, and it's great to get back to where it all started," he said. His parents are Brian and Vicki De Groote, of St. Marys.