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March 2019

Happy Work, Happy Life

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By Steve Eubanks

When Nashville resident Brooks West told his friends he was buying a golf course, the response was exactly what those in the industry would expect.

“They all said, ‘You did what? What are you thinking?’” West said. 

But the friends weren’t admonishing West for getting into a business he didn’t know. They were chastising him for getting into a business he knew all too well.

“They were all like ‘You of all people, given your background, should know better than to buy a golf course,’” West said. 

His background is what makes West’s purchase of the old Crossing Golf Club in Franklin, Tennessee, (a course he has renamed Franklin Bridge Golf Club) a fascinating and inspirational story for those in the industry. 

A former college player who went through the Professional Golf Management program at Mississippi State, West worked at some of the best clubs in the world, including opening the clubhouse and managing a staff of 26 at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico at the ripe old age of 26.

From there, he went into hat sales at Ahead while playing well enough to win a PGA sectional championship and qualifying for a Web.com Tour event. He caddied on the PGA Tour for a while and finally became a salesman for Yamaha Golf Cars in Tennessee and Kentucky.

In short order, because of his people skills, West moved up to regional and then national sales manager for Yamaha. At age 35 he was in line to become the president of Yamaha Golf-Car Co., one of only three golf-car fleet manufacturers in a $1.1 billion industry.

“That’s when I realized that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing,” West said. “I thrive on relationships and interactions. When I got to corporate, I lost all of that. You spend time with people, but they are other employees. And you don’t have the same relationship with someone working for you that you do with someone who is just around.

“I’m also not suited for an organization that works out of a meeting structure, with P and L’s and silos. There’s nothing wrong with it – there are people who are wired for it – but that’s not me.

“So, I decided to go from something really big to something small, something where I could build a family business, be out with the people and have an impact in our community.” 

As for the friends who thought he was certifiable for making the move, West said, “I told them I wasn’t interested in buying ‘a’ golf course. I wanted to buy ‘this’ golf course.” 

The Crossing was one of American Golf’s best-performing properties. But, as West put it, “The company decided to sell off all its corporate-owned courses to fund Drive Shack. So at exactly the time that I was looking to get out of the corporate world and buy a public course, American Golf was looking to sell its best-performing course in the area.”

It seemed like destiny. At least that’s what West thinks.

“We are connected to this area,” he said. “Our church is here, our friends are here. This is our home. Now we have the only 18-hole public course in the county, one of the best in the fastest-growing area in the region. I couldn’t be happier.” 

And, in the end, isn’t that what work-life is really all about?
    
Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.

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