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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Campbell County's Longest Serving Employee, Golf Pro Terry Jolly, Retiring after 40+ Years

Terry Jolly (3rd from right) with Commissioner Tom Lampe, Lisa Krummen, Commissioner Brian Painter
by Colin Moore

Many golfers see the course as somewhere they go to get away from their home life. Somewhere they can leave the stresses of family life behind and have three or four hours in their own company, or the company of friends. Long time Head Professional at AJ Jolly Golf Course, Terry Jolly, is not one of those men. For the last 45 years the course has been a family affair for him. His parents dropped off there at 15. His brother Gary worked there too. His wife Lisa has worked beside him for almost his entire time there. His son Justin was literally born and raised on the course. Terry is Campbell County’s longest tenured employee, however this June that will come to an end and he’ll leave the only job he’s ever had.

What Terry has meant to Campbell County in that time is immeasurable, according to Commissioner Brian Painter: “It’s only when we were hiring a new police chief that it dawned on me.  That’s an important process, so there were many panels, and so many checks and balances. But the golf pro at AJ Jolly interfaces with many more members of the public in a year than the chief. There are about 23,000 rounds of golf per year, and it’s incumbent upon the professional to be welcoming to everyone who comes through the door. That’s reflected in Terry.

“In his time at AJ Jolly, Terry has been more important to the social fabric of Campbell County than any politician, more than any mayor. Both in terms of the number of people he dealt with, and the way he treated them.”

Terry Jolly was named Head Golf Professional at AJ Jolly Golf Course in 1982 but his career at the course started long before that. “In the winter of 1973, when I was 15, my mom dropped me off to ask for a job. When the course opened in 1961, the head pro was a guy named Herk MacAtee. He passed away suddenly in 1971 or ’72, another guy took over for a year and then Herb Fitzer started in 1973, right when I walked in and asked for a job. So I started with him as a cart boy.”

For the first six months or so Terry’s parents had to drop him off and pick him up at the course. Eventually he got his driver’s license and continued to work at AJ Jolly through high school, college, in fact he never left. “It’s been my only job.”

Terry started playing golf at 10 or 11 years old (“Not as young as kids today do.”) His dad played, and Terry watched him leaving for the course on a Wednesday, or a Saturday and started messing around with clubs then. “I didn’t really fall in love with the sport until I started working here and I could play for free!” He played through high school and received a scholarship to NKU to play golf.

If he fell in love with the game of golf at 16 or 17 years old, Terry fell in love with the business of golf at 23 or 24 years old. “That’s when I really knew I wanted to work in golf. I loved the logistics, you’ve got two outings and a league and you have to work out how to get all the people out there playing.”

It’s easy to see why AJ Jolly is such a special place for Terry. Until four years ago he and his wife, Lisa lived on the course, in a house a long putt away from the clubhouse. “We lived on the grounds for 32 years. My son, Justin, was born here and grew up here. It was always so positive for me, being here so close to them all the time.” Justin was a very good golfer in his own right, winning the city open amateur at 13, as well as numerous other junior tournaments. He also played at college and spent some time at a PGA course in Port St Lucie, Florida, before going into another line of business. Justin now has two young children who will definitely keep Terry busy in his retirement.

Lisa, Terry’s wife, has also been a big part of AJ Jolly over the last 30 some years. Being able to work so closely with her, for so long, has been Terry’s favorite part of the job: “My wife has been a bigger part of it than I have. She’s worked here. She has a real eye for decorating, so she’s kept the clubhouse in great condition. She’s fantastic. It’s been so great to be able to work with her for a lot of years.” 

Another source of pride for Terry is the number of charity golf outings that have made their home at AJ Jolly over the years, at the moment there are 60 to 70. “To think of the amount of money that’s been raised here over the years for charity. It must be in the millions. You don’t really notice it at the time but looking back now it’s a huge amount of money. Holly Hill children’s home has been holding an outing here for 56 years. That’s a lot of money raised in that time.”

On the golf side of the business, Terry has built a legacy that will endure through the other professionals he’s given a start to. “We started eight boys at around 16 years old. All of them have stayed in the business and all of them have gone on to be professionals somewhere.” Bill Schuetz grew up a mile away from AJ Jolly, took his first lesson at 5 years old and went on to work for Terry for four years. Since then he spent more than 27 years as a professional at Summit Hills Country Club with more than seven of them as head pro. “The reason I became a PGA pro was because I wanted to emulate Terry. I wanted to be a professional like him, and I wanted to have fun like him. We had a blast, but we were always very professional. Terry is still one of my best friends even now, he’s a class act.” Terry’s trainees have gone on to be pros in Florida, Arizona, New York, Ohio and here in Kentucky.

Denny Pelle, who played professionally on the Nike Tour and went to PGA Q School, is now Membership Liaison at Whisper Rock GC, a Phil Mickelson designed course in Scottsdale, Arizona. Denny also credits Terry with starting him off in his career. "Terry was an idol for me. He was the pro at the club where I grew up playing, he gave me lessons, let me work there and let me play for free. He's someone very special to me, I still tell stories about him even now." 

Denny remembers Terry's sense of humour, how guys would turn up to buy fishing licenses and Terry would sell one to them, despite the fact that the club never sold fishing licenses. Or how he'd tell guys going out late that if they heard a siren it meant bad weather was coming in. Every day at 6:05pm a nearby fire siren would sound, and the guys would watch as golfers walked off the course even though it was bathed in sunshine.

"He's a great storyteller, great fun and a prankster, but he also taught me so much about work ethic. I still use things he taught me to get to younger guys I work with now. I've been lucky enough to work at some great clubs, Terry taught me so much about hospitality, customer service and how to interact with people."

Terry’s replacement as head professional, Brian Lambdin, is another one of his tutees, having started at AJ Jolly at 16 years old, gone away to be a head professional elsewhere and now returned. Terry has no doubts that he’s leaving the course in great hands.

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Like many successful people Terry is adamant that the secret of his success is surrounding himself with good people. “We’ve had fantastic staff. There are still people working who started when I did. They maybe had full time jobs and helped out at the weekends and still do. You’re only as good as the people around you.” He is leaving with the course in great shape. “The superintendent is the one who maintains the course. I’ve worked with four and Tim Mason (a Highlands grad and Fort Thomas resident), the current superintendent has done a fantastic job.”

Of course, anyone else would tell you that Terry’s, and the course’s, success has a lot to do with him. Commissioner Brian Painter has known Terry since they were teenagers: “He’s so steady, so grounded and so dedicated to that golf course and to golf in general. I’ve never seen anybody so dedicated to anything, without ever taking a break away from it. He’s the consummate pro.”

Most people might be surprised to know that, as a golf professional, Terry only played “eight or 10 times” last year. “Most people would guess that I played every day. The outings are a big part of what I do, 60 outings is 60 committees I have to deal with. Then there are 14 or 15 leagues, and high school matches to fit in.” Terry recognizes that golf is time consuming and wants everything to be as smooth as possible for every golfer. “I want people not to have to worry, the main problem with golf is the time commitment, I want them to be able to walk on and not have to wait for an hour to play.”

Even after 45 years, Terry’s biggest influences in his career have been his parents. One of the things he has loved about working in a municipal course is that he can be out front and meet people, rather than sit back in an office. “My parents always taught me to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. Hopefully I do, and that’s probably one of the biggest reasons I’m still around today. People want to feel welcome when they come, and my parents had the biggest part in teaching me that.”

Although Terry is retiring, he hasn’t lost any drive and he isn’t planning to be idle, although he wonders if he might try something outside of golf next. He certainly doesn’t have any regrets about spending the long front nine of his career at AJ Jolly. “I’ve met a lot of great people, I’ve been very fortunate to make great friends. I’ve worked seven days a week for my entire career and never had one morning where I woke up and didn’t want to go to work. A lot of people get up and don’t want to go where they are going. I always tell kids to find something you love doing, and thank goodness I found that.”

AJ Jolly Golf Course (AJ Jolly GC)

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