Drive for success

Recent graduate uses fellowship to establish herself in club management field

Rachel Nesbitt has managed employees at one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. She has traveled the country to meet with leaders of the club management industry, including the president of the PGA. It is a resume to be proud of, a career to earn the envy of many, and all the more impressive once you learn that Nesbitt is 23 years old, and a year ago was still an undergraduate student earning her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of South Carolina.

Nesbitt began laying the groundwork for her success long before she walked across the graduation stage in May 2017. By her senior year, Nesbitt had zeroed in on the golf club management industry as her career of choice. She was a leader on campus and earned rave reviews from her internships, but she didn’t stop there. She sent out resumes to the managers of the top clubs in North Carolina and South Carolina. In January 2017, she attended the meeting of the regional chapter of the Club Managers Association of America.

"I walked into the conference and all these top managers throughout the Carolinas knew my name, knew my face,” Nesbitt says “I arrived early and sat at a table by myself. By the time the conference started, three of the top managers in the Carolinas were sitting next to me. They walked up and recognized me. Just putting your name out there is huge."

After that experience, she turned to one of her professors and mentors at UofSC, Cathy Gustafson, for guidance in narrowing down her job search.

"I owe a lot to Cathy,” Nesbitt says. “We went over options and people that she knew throughout the industry and got me in contact with Tom DeLozier.”

DeLozier earned his degree from UofSC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management in 1999 from the same program as Nesbitt. He is now general manager at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, host of the 2017 PGA Championship.

That contact proved to be the most important of all. With encouragement from Gustafson and DeLozier, Nesbitt applied to be the first John Deere Club Management Fellow at Quail Hollow. The fellowship is the first of its kind, focusing on the skills and competencies required to develop golf industry leaders.

Be willing to reach out to people who might intimidate you and ask them for advice.

Rachel Nesbitt

The competition was stiff, but Nesbitt’s years of working to stand out from the crowd paid off.

"I interviewed the Monday after graduation and here I am,” she says.

The fellowship gave Nesbitt a chance to work for a year at Quail Hollow, helping plan the 99th PGA Championship as well as the upcoming 2018 Wells Fargo Championship and countless exclusive club events.

"I'm getting an overall view of club management so that, when I work my way up the management ladder, I've had exposure to and experience in all these areas,” she says. “Taking so many club management and hospitality classes really helped, and having Cathy's expertise as I was looking for my first position. Also having been a server in the middle of the Masters, using that experience in terms of training the staff and what we covered at Augusta and what we can adapt and fit into our own training at Quail Hollow.

"Every experience so far has led up to where I am now and prepared me to take the next step.”

With her year as a fellow ending this spring, Nesbitt will move into a new job as food and beverage manager at Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte. DeLozier has encouraged her and guided her through her year at Quail Hollow as she has taken on more and more responsibility, including representing the club at the PGA Show and other industry events, meeting leaders including PGA President Paul Levy, learning from them and sharing her own experiences and ideas.

“Rachel has done an amazing job during her tenure at Quail Hollow Club,” DeLozier says. “As a member of the inaugural class of John Deere Fellows at the Quail Hollow Institute, Rachel has set a very high bar of success for future leaders that become part of this extraordinary initiative to advance the golf industry. She truly epitomizes the mission of our fellowship in bringing the very best and brightest future leaders and giving them an unparalleled platform to be successful.”

Her willingness to reach out and make contacts has earned Nesbitt friends and mentors in her industry as well as a reputation as a rising star. Executives with John Deere and executive search firm Colt Mackenzie McNair also have been a great help to her.

"Just being exposed to all this: There's no other opportunity like it. Having the chance to be behind the scenes at a major isn’t something that comes along very often,” she says. “I think having the support of everyone in the fellowship is unique at this point in my career.”

Her advice for those who will follow her, no matter what field, is to take advantage of the opportunities a school like UofSC offers.

“You never know when a connection is going to come along. Be willing to reach out to people who might intimidate you and ask them for advice," she says. "If you make that connection with someone, you're going to have a mentor who's willing to help you because they've been in your position before."

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