Kemp ready to manage course

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Uel Kemp was talking on the phone with a friend, trying not to get his hopes up too high as he waited for word about a new job possibility.

But that friend was having none of it.

"Dude, that's your dream job," Kemp was told.

And now, barring some unforeseen issue that might pop up between today and Friday, that dream job -- general manager of Lee County's Grand Island Club -- is Kemp's. The Lee County Parks and Recreation Authority named the local businessman as finalist for the position at a special called meeting Tuesday.

"If everything works out, I definitely will be in my element," said Kemp, who has worked most recently as an associate in the insurance industry and who was previously president/COO of a three-store restaurant franchise. "To say I'm excited about this position is an understatement.

"I grew up playing golf, and I've spent a lot of time on golf courses. There's just not another course around here like Grand Island."

A University of Georgia graduate who has more than 20 years experience in franchise ownership and consulting in the food industry and a brief career in the insurance industry, Kemp is actually a member of the Grand Island Club. There's no doubt he knows the course and the facilities.

"I grew up playing golf on the city courses around Atlanta, and they were little more than goat tracks," Kemp said. "So I know how fortunate we are to have a course like the one here at Grand Island. Lester (Lombard, the club's head groundskeeper) and his staff do an outstanding job.

"In the last six weeks I've played all the courses in the area, and it's not hyperbole to say that no one can match Grand Island's tees, greens and fairways. Having a recreational facility like this is a plus for Lee County."

Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy said there were a number of factors that led the Commission to choose Kemp over Bill Combs, the other finalist for the position.

"After looking at his resume and talking with some of his references, the Board felt that Mr. Kemp possessed a strong work ethic and an excellent business acumen," Duffy said. "He's a current member of Grand Island, so he'll be no stranger to the membership, and we believe he's a team player and a self-starter."

Duffy said the Commission's decision to bring back recently retired general manager Vic McKinley on a part-time basis to help Kemp adjust to the position will make the transition easier.

The general manager-in-waiting said he's aware the new position is not just a free pass to Grand Island's 18 holes.

"There's an old joke that getting into the golf business is a sure way not to get to play much golf," Kemp said. "I'm prepared to put in a lot of hours to make this facility something the people in Lee County will be proud of.

"Our mission here should be to bring joy into the life of people who come here. That is our obligation."