Even though his first day wasn’t until this past Tuesday, April 16, one got the feeling after sitting down with Paul O’Dell for 10 minutes on Monday morning, that the City of Miami Springs, namely City Manager Ron Gorland, may have indeed nailed down their “hole-in-one.”
Since taking over the course in 1997, the city had explored and implemented numerous different strategies and hires when it came to putting a person or plan in place to stop a hemorhaging process that has ciphened hundreds of thousands of dollars from Miami Springs taxpayers on an annual basis. Nothing has worked. Not even close.
When the position of head of golf course operations opened up last December, Gorland’s task, mandated by the city council, was to try to find the right person to get things fixed or at least headed in the right direction.
In O’Dell, hopes are high that indeed maybe the right person is finally in place. While he certainly can play some golf, there is no professional playing background out on the course from O’Dell.
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“I’m really excited to be here and looking forward the challenge in front of me,” O’Dell said. “I know Miami Springs Country Club has had a lot of issues in the past years and plenty of struggles but I feel I have the marketing and business background to come in here and get things turned around.”
Take a glance at O’Dell’s resume and it would be hard to argue that point.
After spending nine years (1983-91) as the senior national sales manager at Turnberry Isle and Resort in Aventura, he moved on to the general manager’s post for the PGA Tour Inc./Muirfield Group at the Golf Club of Miami from 1991 to 2002.
But perhaps his most impressive stint came from 2002 to 2007 when he served as GM of Doral Park Country Club (just west of the Doral Resort & Spa) and moved a struggling club from the red to the black.
“When I took over there, they were losing in the area of a couple hundred thousand dollars a year,” said O’Dell, who upon his arrival developed and executed a $2.75 million dollar refinance of the existing clubhouse. “When I left, there was $436,000 in the coffers.”
From there O’Dell moved to Mills River, N.C., where he served as general manager/consultant at High Vista Country Club for two years (April 2008 to April 2010) before stepping aside to deal with health issues involving his back.
O’Dell was out for an extended period of time following major spinal surgery and just recently had returned to the work force, accepting a position as director of golf operations at Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas, Texas (where he is originally from) in late February.
“I don’t even think I had unpacked my things yet when my phone rings one day and it’s Mr. Gorland on the other end wanting to talk to me about the opening at Miami Springs,” O’Dell said. “Your first reaction is, ‘Hey, I just sat down at a new job,’ but the bottom line was that I’ve spent 31 years in South Florida and this is where my friends, family and business contacts are, so I had to consider it.”
Also down here is his 17-year-old daughter Heather, a junior at Archbishop McArthy High School in Southwest Ranches. That played a part as well.
“My other three kids are grown and off on their own but I still had one in high school, so I really did want to be close to her if I could,” said O’Dell, who currently has a home in Miami Lakes but actually was a Miami Springs resident for three years back in the early ’70s when he worked for Braniff Airways.
The first phone call Gorland made was to Charlie DeLucca over at International Links (formerly Melreese Country Club), probably one of the longest and most respected teaching golf pro’s South Florida has seen whose past students include current touring pro Erik Compton.
“It took him all of about five seconds to blurt out Paul’s name,” said Gorland. “To say Paul came highly recommended would probably understating the issue. Even after I talked to Charlie, I made more phone calls and every single time, his name would come up. I can honestly tell you not only did I not hear one negative thing about him, I didn’t even hear one neutral thing about him.”
Gorland, who admitted to repeated phone calls to O’Dell to talk him into getting back on a plane to South Florida to talk about the position, said he was looking for someone who had more of an astute business background than someone who could stick a 125-yard wedge shot 6 feet from the pin.
“He clearly fit the model of what we were looking for,” Gorland said. “Over the years, we tried the outsourcing, we tried an in-house pro and none of those things worked. Now we have someone not only with a solid business background but a marketing background as well. He is the consummate golf and country club business management professional and we’re really excited to have him.”