Offering a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that meets the expectations of the members at The Club at Flying Horse is part of what guided the decision to name Jake O’Dell, PGA, the 2018 Colorado Section Private Merchandiser of the Year.
“Receiving this recognition is a career milestone for me and a huge privilege for the team at Flying Horse,” states O’Dell. “We are very excited about this recognition and I see it as a big thank you to my ownership, our members, all of my mentors and especially the people that work with me now. This is a huge honor. Thank you!”
A Colorado native born into a golf-family, O’Dell basically grew up with a golf club in his hands. His childhood was spent in Estes Park where his dad was the superintendent for the Recreational Department’s golf courses, his mom worked alongside him in the summer watering the course and tending to the flowers and his sister honed her golf skills making her “probably a better golfer” than O’Dell.
Knowing from an early age that he wanted to become a PGA Professional, O’Dell’s dad encouraged him to work at the course as a cart kid, starting when he was just 11 or 12. He attended the PGM program at UCCS being a graduate of the very first UCCS PGM class. And according to O’Dell, the rest is history.
O’Dell feels privileged to have had the opportunity for internships under Russ Miller, PGA, at The Broadmoor, and CJ (Clarence Parry, PGA) at the Glenmoor Country Club, through his program. During his time at both clubs, they were the recipients of the National Merchandiser of the Year and the Private Merchandiser of the Year Awards, respectively.
“I watched how great those teams were and how proud those guys were of all the work that everyone did to be successful,” recalls O’Dell. “It was at that time that I made it a personal goal to work toward one of these awards myself.”
With graduation looming and hearing that Flying Horse was building a golf course, little did O’Dell know that he would find his home when he accepted a summer position. O’Dell credits Glenn Wallace, PGA, for his friendship and mentorship during his 13-year career at Flying Horse where he has worked his way up the ranks from cart kid to Head Golf Professional.
“It has been pretty exciting to be part of a project (Flying Horse) where you get to see if from the ground up and continue to see the growth through the construction of the athletic club, the club house and then the lodge,” recounts O’Dell. “And now we are excited about building our next golf course – Flying Horse North.”
What does it mean to you to receive the 2018 Colorado Section Private Merchandizer of the Year Award?
To receive this award is a milestone for me, my career and our staff. I am so proud of the contributions everyone from the cart kids to upper management put forth to position us to be at the top of our game. Our ownership really grants us the autonomy essential for the entire team to think outside the box and to do things differently each year. I am lucky to have the team I do here at Flying Horse – our buyer, Jessica Doornbos, has done an incredible job and in my opinion is the best buyer I have had the pleasure to work with. Our my assistants Brian Mikkelsen and Ashley Skidmore, PGA, are amazing, we work hard day in and day out with a smile on our face and truly create a great experience.
What do you believe are the qualities you possess that support your nomination for this award?
I feel that we have something really special here at Flying Horse. I’ve always tried to pride myself in creating a close community with my peers and the people I work with. Our success is dependent upon having a casual and welcoming atmosphere for our members and our guests. When we have that approachable demeanor, I think it creates those lasting relationships and strengthens our team.
For us, thinking outside the box and doing things a little different every year is beneficial. We follow trends and try to get ahead of them.
We are also very proud of our community involvement, which starts with the ownership and filters throughout the entire Flying Horse organization. Although we are only in our fourteenth year, we are very well known in the Springs area for our community outreach, growing our community and supporting our kids, as well as being a part of the FLAME Program (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
What are some tools you use in your profession that you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
Humility is always big and along with that, for me, is relationship building. As a younger person, I was less certain of myself and therefore, appeared not as welcoming to strangers. I’ve learned over the years to be more confident and hospitable.
Patience is another attribute that has benefited me and my team. Having the ability to see issues from a number of different perspectives without quickly jumping to conclusions helps me to take a challenging situation and mold it into a better scenario.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
The thing I’ve always held on to is “If you’re not as happy driving to work as you are driving away from work, you probably need to look for a different career.” We have long summers and being excited to come to work every day and feel lucky to be where we are is important for our own success. I have and will continue to pass this advice on to others, as well.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Be patient. Let things come to you. If you work hard and keep moving forward, good things tend to happen.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
Anytime I see any current or former staff accept a position or job that advances their career and future.
What is your merchandising strategy?
Our strategy has always been to understand what is happening in the business of golf and try to lead the trends. To do this, you have to be a student of the business and really work to stay ahead of the trends and never allowing yourself to get stagnate.
Also, our whole philosophy since we started has been when our guests walk into our golf shop, treat them like they are walking into your living room. Knowing and interacting with our members provides those personal touches that keep them and their guests coming back. Building a sense of community is a very important aspect of being in the private business. And to do all of this, I have the best team I could possibly have. They are all Rock Stars. I am always in awe when I sit back and watch what they are capable of doing.
Share some of your “Best Practices.”
One of the best practices that we use and that I really like is that we coincide our golf programing with our buying plan. Like many, we have extended our tournament programing outside golf’s traditional four or five months, which allows us to develop a buying plan that encompasses four different seasons. As a result, our buying plan helps to influence how these events are run and our events coincide with how we buy. We are very cognizant of our calendar when we purchase items.
Our willingness to bring in special orders and go the extra mile for our members and our guests has positively impacted our numbers. We have worked really hard the last two years to embrace this concept and not be afraid of the extra work load this creates. For us, the benefits of customer loyalty have definitely out-weighed the extra hours.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
My beautiful wife and I are having our first child, Graham this October!