QUALIFIED accountant Johnathon Zirkler, who did his PGA traineeship at Toowoomba Golf Club at Middle Ridge on Queensland’s Darling Downs, has returned to his old stomping ground as general manager.
Inside Golf caught up with Zirkler to find out about his transition into golf club management.
What has been your career path to managing Toowoomba Golf Club?
I did a bachelor of accountancy degree at Southern Cross University at Coffs Harbour and worked in insolvency. Then an opportunity came up to do a PGA traineeship at Toowoomba Golf Club under Paul Hapgood in 2003. When I finished my traineeship I went to Kempsey Golf Club as head professional, but because I wanted to play more golf I came back to Toowoomba as assistant pro. In 2016, I left to work in insolvency and in December 2017 the GM’s job came up here and I thought ‘why not’.
What are the top three priorities for Toowoomba GC in the years ahead?
Number one is member services – engaging with members as much as possible to make them feel welcome and part of the club. Second is growing membership and third is making the business community recognise us as part of them.
What are the greatest challenges running the club?
Working closely with my team is important. It’s about getting them on track and pushing them to develop their own strengths and ideas to help make the club grow.
What is your vision for this golf club?
If the Aura retirement development goes ahead I would like to see us keep investing in the golf course. There are always little improvements that can be made. I would also like to see an improvement in services for the members, but we have to make sure our finances are in place.
What inspired you to pursue golf club management?
My mum, who worked her way up from being a trainee nurse to senior nurse manager, said when you realise you can help people more than hinder them then you are ready for management.
How would you describe your management style?
I like to encourage my staff to be able to achieve. I have an accounting background so I know how things can go wrong. It’s about making the staff feel part of the club and taking ownership of their job.
What is the best part of your job?
Engaging with the members – it’s enjoyable.
What do you see as your biggest challenge as a club in the coming years?
The aging demographic. I don’t necessarily see it as an issue because when you have aging membership who play more mid-week golf it’s an opportunity to encourage the younger generations to play on weekends.
Where were you born and bred?
I was born at MacLean (NSW) and grew up at Macksville, which is midway between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
What hobbies or passions do you have that allow you to unwind on the weekend or after work?
I have two young boys (ages 3 and 5) so we are getting involved in soccer and football and things like that.
What is one thing members don’t know about you?
There’s not much because I’m pretty open. They know I support the Blues (NSW) and the Canberra Raiders, but maybe they don’t know how much I love the beach.