The Resort Merchandiser of the Year Award recognizes a Colorado PGA Professional who has demonstrated superior skills as a merchandiser in the promotion of golf at a resort facility. Congratulations to this year’s award recipient, Jim Miller, PGA General Manager at Sonnenalp Golf Club!
Based on demonstrated superior skills in merchandising, including aspects of credit rating, community involvement, staffing, inventory, displays and other techniques, Jim Miller, PGA, is awarded this honor on behalf of Sonnenalp Golf Club. Jim also received the Private Merchandiser of the Year award in 2007. Jim was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and is a self declared huge Badger, Packers and Bucks fan. He was introduced to golf by his older brother but didn’t start playing seriously until college as he played soccer, basketball and baseball in high school. Jim was recruited to play soccer (goalkeeper) at Judson University and also walked onto the baseball team. Ultimately, he left Judson after his Junior year, took a year off and graduated from Oklahoma State.
Jim was introduced to the golf industry by spending his summers in Colorado and working at Castle Pines Golf Club. He started as a busboy and came back every summer after that, transitioning to different restaurant server positions, locker room attendant; you name it. Jim thought he might continue to pursue a career in the restaurant business, but when he met his wife, Jim commented, “I needed to find another career path. Working at the same Club as Jay Davis, Andy Benson and Billy Loeffler and seeing their day-to-day, I thought ‘those guys are awesome, maybe I could be a Golf Professional’. I spoke with Keith Schneider about it and in one sentence, he set me on my current path. He looked at me and said, ‘I think you’d make a great Golf Professional’ and I said, ‘Awesome, how do I get started?’ and he said, ‘you start scrubbing clubs’ and that was it! All in all, Jim spent 13 seasons at Castle Pines, working his way through the ranks.
What does it mean to you to receive the Resort Merchandiser of the Year Award?
It means a lot. I joined in 2016, and we’ve worked really hard to change the culture of our shop and merchandising – shifting from a reactionary shop to a proactive shop. We want to go find what people like, or what they don’t even know they like. We wanted to change the customer experience of the shop; we want to be the hospitality linebackers. We’ve put in the hard work each spring, and we’ve set a great foundation and we’re moving in the right direction, which is great. This is a team effort.
What are tools you use in your profession that help you with your success?
We utilize the space the best we can. We replaced the trophy cases in the hallway to display our merchandise and shop gear. Even at the hotel, we have a window and Facebook pretty often, so I think getting on the wave of social media has been important, as well as our newsletter. We utilize a members-only logo, which started small, grew to hats, it become super popular, and now it’s on shirts.
What are the qualities you possess that you believe supported you in receiving this award?
Our team is always thinking about members and guests. We’re constantly trying to improve our customer experience: let’s get 1% every day and keep moving forward each day. A lot of members and guests can golf anywhere, but they’ve chosen us – and we want to honor that and respect their time (to golf and shop with us), so they know we’re taking care of them. We also listen to what our members and guests are interested in. We’re willing to take risks so we’ll always be a fun shop.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
Paul Lemcke, Director of golf at the Vintage Club, Indian Wells, CA , once told me, “Customer service is key”. Paul knew everything about everyone. These people can belong anywhere, they can ski anywhere, they can swim anywhere. Why have they chosen here? They’ve found a bond. They’ve found a place here, where they feel welcome. Someone knows them, and that’s what brings them comfort. And if you can provide that, where someone knows your name, and they have an immediate family and connection, then you’re providing a great product. And it can be used anywhere – golf, fitness, F&B operations. If everything is that tribal bond, that intimate relationship with all of your members, you’re creating a space where they feel welcome, they feel a part of something, and they feel a part of the tribe. Also, treat others the way you wish to be treated. Whether it’s staff, members, or neighbors. If you come in with a servant’s heart and you treat everyone like they’re going to be your boss someday, they remember your positive interaction.