David is the man in the background taking care of all the details that make Lee Valley what it is, a warm and welcoming place to escape the cares of life, let your hair down and feel at home away from home. He and his wife, Karen, recently welcomed a sweet new baby girl into their family, Anabel. We managed to take the phone off the hook, close the doors, and steal a few minutes to interview this incredibly busy man.
How did you get into the golf business?
I started working here when I was 19, I worked on the maintenance side of the golf course. I did that during the summers while I was in college. Everything from cutting the rough, cutting the fairways, repairing divets and pitchmarks -all the general greenkeeping duties. That was over three summers while I was doing a BA in economics and computer science. I then completed a Masters in Business Economics. My thesis was on how the supply and demand of golfers would be affected by stricter environmental legislation causing higher green fee prices. I visited two golf courses in Boston as part of my thesis. That was a great experience.
Did you go straight into the role from college?
Yes, I went straight into the role – I dove right into the deep end. Nothing in college can prepare you for the real world. It was challenging.
I started working full time at Lee Valley in 2005. I was 24 – I’m 35 now, so 11 years. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned everything from managing people to analysing accounts, customer satisfaction to managing future expectations. I’m still learning every day.
It’s a family-run business and I am lucky to be working alongside my Mum, Dad and brother, Paul. My brother and I are both deeply involved in all aspects of the business and my parents are a great help.
In 2007, we built 20 holiday homes which I project managed. That was a massive undertaking and again I learned a huge amount. The holiday homes are short term rentals. We have families, golfers, and people renovating their house who use the holiday homes to get away or as a temporary home. They’ve added hugely to the resort.
Outside of the Golf Course, what do you like to do?
My main interest outside of golf is my family; my beautiful wife Karen, and my children, Charlie and Anabel. Spending time with my family is what gives me the most happiness. Because I work so much, time with my family is probably the most precious thing.
Charlie’s always around the course with his Granddad – it’s like he’s working here already!
Apart from my family and golf, I am interested in fitness. I played a lot of rugby in my younger days and still love to watch rugby and other sports. I follow everything from American football to cricket. I love history. Anything from World War 2 to the American Civil War to the Roman Empire.
If you could tell me one highlight of the past year, what would it be?
Personally, it would have to be the birth of my daughter, Anabelle
Professionally, I’d say overseeing the work we did on the golf course
Could you tell me a little about life at Lee Valley over the past year and the work you are referring to?
This past year, we saw that the economy was improving and we felt it was time to make a large investment in the golf course. People need to relax. They need a place between home and work; a place to escape from work-life or home-life and we feel like Lee Valley is an excellent place to do that. Once they come in the gate they can forget all their other problems, play a game of golf, stay in the holiday homes or enjoy a pint and a bite to eat.
A lot of our members have a nickname for our bar; they call it the GluePot because once they get in there they find it so hard to leave. In 2015 we invested over €140,000 in the resort. We built six new tee boxes, drained and built sumps on ten holes, purchased three new golf course machines, spread over 350 tonnes of sand on the golf course and relined the lake on the first hole. In the clubhouse we completely redecorated our front entrance, improved the car park and the shower room in the ladies locker room by adding an entirely new shower area. These improvements have already paid off as our membership numbers for 2015 were up over 7% from the previous year.
That’s a lot for one year! Are you finished now or do you have plans for next year?
Next year we will continue with our focus on improving the course, particularly our bunkers.
Our egronomist, James, is in the process of drawing up plans to redesign a number of bunkers on the course. Bunker redesign is a costly endeavour. It can cost between €2,000 – 4,000 per bunker to get them right. We have 75 bunkers. The Bunker development will be done incrementally as part of a long-term plan.
There’s always such a great atmosphere at Lee Valley! Could you tell me a little about how you facilitate such a warm and welcoming environment?
I have to really credit the team here. The team we have here are second to none in my opinion. They are friendly, warm, loving people who work hard to make Lee Valley what it is.
James manages the course, Lisa manages food and beverage, Danny is our head chef, and Linda is our reservations manager. They are all dedicated to ensuring that the customer has the best experience possible once they arrive into Lee Valley. We have many other members of the team, that are too numerous to mention, but they all contribute a tremendous amount to the warm atmosphere of Lee Valley Golf & Country Club. The fire is always lit. We try to make it as comfortable as possible for people to sit down and relax.
I also want to mention the members. We have an exceptional Mens and Ladies Club. Both clubs are very well-run and we have great friendships with all of our members. We don’t see them as members – we consider them our friends.