As one of the preeminent private club managers in the US, Colin helped set new standards at a one of the world’s most renowned private clubs, Winged Foot Golf Club. The name is synonymous with championship golf, elegance and a warm and embracing environment. When Colin arrived in 1991 his mission was simple, make the club as great as its reputation; this was no simple task. A very traditional club set in its ways, Colin spent years enhancing the brand , the service and culinary programs, upgrading the physical plant, reengaging with critical externals partners like the United States Golf Association, scheduling another golf major championship and creating an embracing hospitality environment.
Raised at the foot of one of his true hospitality mentors Colin learned early on the importance of a warm, genuine smile, an extended hand, and a warm embrace. “Almost every day of my childhood was spent, in part, in the womb of my parents’ restaurant.” Most, if not all patrons referred to his paternal grandmother as “mother.” There were family members everywhere; but there was no doubt who the patron was – “Your Host, Harry Burns.” Every piece of marketing materials, ashtrays, matchbooks, menus were all signed, “Your Host, Harry Burns”. Harry greeted you at the door, visited your table, or met you at the bar; at some point in the evening, “your host” Harry Burns was present. To this day, Colin still encounters former patrons who consistently talk about their happy times, holidays, wedding, and quiet dinners. “That kind of hospitality, pure and earnest, remains aspirational for me and has served as a guide for my approach to welcoming members, guests, mentoring staff and serving as a leader.”
That early road led me to a 31-year career at Winged Foot Golf Club, one of the most prestigious private golf clubs in the world. Established in 1923, Winged Foot Golf Club almost immediately established itself in the world of golf by hosting the 1929 US Open. During my 31 years we hosted the 1997 PGA Championship, the 2006 and 2020 US Opens, the 2004 US Amateur and countless prestigious charity events to include Michael J. Fox Foundation, Christopher Reeve Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Cystic Fibrosis. While always famous, Winged Foot GC was not always great. Over his career Colin strove to make Winged Foot “a place a greatness,” a place where, “Members are treated like family, and guests like Members…”
My career has been spent in the private club space. Private clubs have their issues, some perceived some real. And yet, private clubs, social, golf, racquets, often serves as that place where young men and young women learn (outside of their homes) how to behave in a civilized, respectful manner. Yes, private clubs around the world have relaxed their respective dress codes, modified menus and yet, for the most part they remain one of the last bastions where manners matter. Private clubs, elegant hotels, fine restaurants HOPEFULLY serve as educational centers where young men and women are reminded that, manners matter.
Humanity is at an inflection point, certainly in the US, and perhaps worldwide the ubiquitous and dangerous use of social media by our children, the lack of civility in our politicians, families sitting around death scrolling…what do we do?
We as a collective community promote hospitality values and the societal benefits of the hospitality industry and its dedicated servants.
The father of American psychology, William James said, “We don’t smile because we are happy, we are happy because we smile.” So let’s smile, let’s love, let’s bring our guests into the embrace of true and pure hospitality. Let’s embrace our weary travelers, let’s walk towards our guests, welcome them, “embrace” them and smile…