For thousands of golfers from across the country, Linda McCann is the voice and face of golf for their vacation and group outings to Northern Michigan. McCann is also a prime example of how the sport and business of golf have been a catalyst for economic growth for an entire town. Today, McCann is the sales manager for Treetops Resort — an expansive property with 81 holes of golf in the summer, 23 ski runs in the winter, two hotels, a spa and a conference center in Gaylord, 230 miles north of Detroit along Interstate 75. The surrounding Otsego County area boasts more than 20 golf facilities and bills itself as “America’s Summer Golf Mecca.”
When McCann first started working on the property as a waitress more than two decades ago, however, there were only three golf courses in the entire area. After moving away from Gaylord for three years, McCann returned and inquired about working at the restaurant again. Her manager suggested she try working at the front desk at the resort, which was getting into the business of golf. The owner of the facility, the late Harry Melling, hired Robert Trent Jones to build a golf course on the property and brought in a young PGA Professional named Rick Smith to head the golf operation. McCann found herself on the front lines of the golf boom when Jones’ Masterpiece course opened in 1987. “I didn’t have any hotel experience, but my manager told me it was a lot like waitressing — you deal one-on-one with the customer, try to give them the best experience they can have, and the job brings you something different every day,” says McCann.
McCann moved from the front desk to the front office, earning promotions from reservation manager to office manager to her current position as sales manager. As she grew, so did Treetops. During a decade of steady development, the resort added the state’s only Tom Fazio course and three designs by Smith, including the famous Threetops par-3 course that hosted ESPN’s Par-3 Shootout with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Lee Trevino. The property also became the catalyst for a golf boom throughout the area as golfers from across the country discovered Gaylord’s rolling terrain and long summer days.
“I’m the initial contact for our group business, so I’m making the first impression for Treetops — and I want to make sure that first voice they hear on the phone is a friendly one,” McCann says. “My staff and I go through paperwork, proposals and settle on a price, ultimately getting a signed contract.”
Treetops itself has approximately 400 employees during peak golf season, and Gaylord feels the positive effects of golf’s presence throughout the year. “Golf has absolutely been a driving force in the growth of the town,” McCann says. “We’re a tourist town, and skiing was always the draw. Golf brings in people from around the country, and it makes us a year-round destination.”
As Treetops was growing, so was the community. Otsego County’s population increased by nearly 30 percent during the 1990s, and it continues to grow despite Michigan’s economic downturn. More than 24,000 people live in the area, and the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce expects that number to reach nearly 35,000 by 2020. Longtime residents, such as McCann, have seen the area grow from a small village based on skiing, foresting and farming to a central location for regional business, including a pair of recently built industrial parks.
Through the growth, McCann has been a pied piper calling golfers to Gaylord. Her main responsibility is to solicit groups of 24 or more golfers to come to Treetops. From corporate outings to groups of families and friends, McCann works to turn interest into contracts that include rounds of golf, room nights and restaurant meals.
“The important part is knowing who you’re talking to and what they want out of a golf trip,” says McCann, whose three children have all worked at — and learned how to play golf at — Treetops. “Is it a group of scratch golfers that wants to play 36 a day, or a casual group of buddies that wants to play golf once and maybe have a hospitality room for a poker game at night? Or is it a couples group that wants to split activities between golf and the spa?” McCann has learned plenty about golf during her transition from ski resort waitress to golf mecca sales manager, including how to play the game herself. The biggest lesson has been about the impact of golf; not the economic impact on the area, but the positive impact on the lives of golfers. “What better way is there to work with the public than helping them play golf? People love what we do for them,” says McCann.
Source: PGA Magazine