|Dan Schlarman. FTM file. |
by Robin Gee
Longtime general manager of Highland Country Club, Dan Schlarman, has announced he will be retiring from the club soon. He said he plans to stay until a replacement for his position is selected, but predicts that will likely happen by the end of this month.
Schlarman has been general manager for 25 years. "Twenty-five years ago, I was one of the youngest club managers in the Cincinnati area. Now, I’m one of the oldest," he quipped.
He said he has loved his job from day one and wanted to retire when the club was on an especially high note.
"The club is doing very well, and I thought it’s a good time to leave with the club on the upswing. Membership is good, and we have good department heads leading all the departments," he said.
It’s time for "some fresh ideas. It’s always good to have a new person come in," he added.
A career and a labor of love
Schlarman grew up right behind the club’s golf course on Blossom Lane. He went to Newport Central Catholic high school. In the 1980s, he took a job as a bartender at the old El Greco Restaurant in Southgate, where he met many of the Highland Country Club members, he said.
When he left that restaurant, he moved on to the Hilton Hotel in Florence and advanced into management. He was asked to help manage another of the owner’s properties, the Covington Landing floating restaurant, perhaps on track for a restaurant-focused career.
Then, in the summer of 1996, "I was approached by several of the members that I knew, and they said there’s an opening at the club for a general manager and I should apply for it. I said I’m not sure I know a lot about country clubs, but they said, 'oh you’ll love it.' And so, I applied, and they hired me, and I did love it – for 25 years!"
Schlarman said the membership has been wonderful and supportive. He’s also very thankful for the staff that made his job as general manager such a joy, he said.
"I’m fortunate that I had some great people working with me, like the golf pro and the grounds superintendent, and several good chefs. They have handled all their departments so well over the years. I oversee the operations as general manager, but I’ve had some good people working with me that have made me look good. Jay Lumpkin, for example, was here at the club 40 some years as the golf pro. He retired a few years ago and was well-liked by everybody," he said.
The club, past and present
A view of the old clubhouse at Highland Country Club. The club was developed in 1915 to replace an earlier club. Provided by HCC.
Highland Country Club (HCC) is indeed doing quite well these days. Private country clubs are seen as a luxury, and in an economic downturn they can suffer, Schlarman said. This was so in the early 2000s. The economy was stalled, and this did affect his club and clubs across the country. Yet, as the economy recovered, so did the club. Today, interest in golf and country clubs is up, way up.
"During the corona virus shutdown one thing they allowed people to do was play golf, so there was an increase demand for golf. You see golf courses and country clubs doing quite well right now because membership is up. Golf playing is up, as well as increased usage of the dining room, everything else," he explained.
|18 N. Fort Thomas Ave.|
HCC is one of the oldest clubs in the area. Developed in 1915, it replaced an earlier club called Iverness that was located on what is now often called Iverness Corner, the corner of North Fort Thomas and Memorial Parkway. That club burned down in 1900, and the plan was to rebuild farther out of town away from urban dangers like fire. The location they selected was at the end of the streetcar line, what was then considered "country," Schlarman said.
Today, Highland Country Club serves about 250 member families annually and additional seasonal members for summer. The club boasts a number of amenities in addition to its 18-hole golf course, including a clubhouse with dining room that can seat 150, a swimming pool, bowling lanes and more.
The club hosts several weddings, parties and other social events and corporate events throughout the year. It’s also become the go-to place for class reunions, said Schlarman. Looking at his calendar, he listed off reunions on the books for Highlands High, Newport, St. Thomas and Thomas More.
Golfing events happen throughout the year as well, of course. "We host a really large event called the Directors’ Cup, and that’s a member-guest event, always the first week in August. The Highlander is our big member event, always in June. That one has gone on the last 96-97 years."
What’s next for Schlarman?
Schlarman said he wants to take it easy, take a break from working, maybe do a little traveling and spend some time with his large extended family, all of whom live in the area.
"Obviously, this is a small club, and you end up doing a lot of jobs. It’s very time consuming. But, I’ve always enjoyed it here. The membership is great group of people, but I’m looking forward to a little personal time," he said.
"This has always felt like home for me. I grew up so close, and my family is still right here in Fort Thomas," he said.
"I can remember when they first interviewed me for the job, they said Highland is a small club, a stepping stone to a larger position. They were hoping I’d stay for five years. Little did they know I’d stay for 25 years," he added.
He noted again that the golf pro had been with the club for 40 years, and the office manager retired only last year after serving 46 years. There’s a reason people stay, he said.
"I think people stay because they enjoy it so much. We’ve got great people, a beautiful facility. We sit on the hilltop with the windows all facing to the west. You can see the most beautiful sunsets you’ve ever seen. In our promotional material, I always quote a line from the newspaper back in 1915. It said something like 'the most beautiful rolling hillside anywhere.' And it really is, it’s a pretty spot, pretty views. It’s challenging because it’s up on a hill, but that makes it charming also," he said.
Highland Country Club offers exactly what members want, he said. "It’s a wonderful club, great members, great staff. It’s friendly, it’s social, it’s welcoming."
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