Vice Chair Gives Report on Big Fish After First Month of Operations
By Joe Morey
LCO Vice Chairman and Big Fish Golf Club Board of Directors member, Jason Schlender, gave a report to the LCO Tribal Governing Board on the current status and first month of business operations at the newly purchased golf course.
Schlender reported a successful Grand Opening event was held on Saturday, May 11, with a cookout, door prizes and a free tournament with cash added to the prize pool. Discounted memberships were offered at the Grand Opening.
After the first month of business operations, Schlender said it took a little while to make the transfer of ownership at the course and there may have been a little bit of getting used to the culture change from private ownership to a tribally-owned golf course.
There are currently 18 employees at the course and they will be adding more as the summer season kicks in, Schlender reported, and of those 18 employees, 15 are LCO tribal members and one other is Native from another tribe. The two non-Natives are Indy Thompson, the general manager of the course and Lynell Swenson, the bookkeeper.
“Indy has been at the course for five years,” Schlender said. “And he just graduated from UW-Stout with a degree in management.”
Schlender said they are going to utilize the skills of some LCO people at the course, such as two golfers, Joe Taylor and Larry Taylor, both employed there, will be doing golf clinics over the summer and teaching Lac Courte Oreilles youth (tribal members and descendants) the game of golf.
“We’re also going to use Sandy Carley’s program of youth workers to get some interns at the course who will be student ambassadors,” Schlender noted. “They will be focused on customer service, floating around the course greeting people, washing clubs and just being generally personable.”
Schlender reported to the TGB that financially, revenues are down compared to last year due to discounts offered during the grand opening event and the May 18 college golf tournament was cancelled due to rain, but, total golf rounds purchased are up from last year.
“Our memberships are not where we want them to be,” Schlender reported. He noted that tribal members are offered discounted memberships and may purchase a membership through payroll deduction. Veterans are also offered discounts, and you get a double discount if you are a tribal member veteran.
Schlender said scheduled events are set up at the banquet hall, such as a comedy show for June 6, through the casino, and an upcoming wedding.
Mulligans Restaurant and Bar within the golf course is opening this weekend. Schlender said they will be open all summer during lunch time and you don’t have to golf to go have lunch. The restaurant is open to the public, and encourages people to stop by and check it out.
Schlender said the employees are getting customer service training from the casino. He also said the golf course board of directors is investing in marketing and new signage for the course. Any marketing assistance from the casino would be done by the casino at no charge to the course. They determined that the course name would remain Big Fish because it is marketable and known. They would also continue to promote the Pete Dye name as the designer.
Schlender added there is merchandise available in the pro shop incorporating the new logo with the name Big Fish Golf Club Lac Courte Oreilles, and it’s offered at discounts for tribal members.
LCO Chairman Louis Taylor encouraged tribal members to stop by the course and take a ride around on a golf cart to see the property, especially the back nine holes not visible from the roads. “It’s your property, go check it out!”