Heart and Soul
I met Gena Dells for the first time in her new office at Rancho Carlsbad GC. Hers is the only office in the modest clubhouse, directly adjacent to the golf shop desk, where an employee was helping a customer. Dells’ door was open, and items were piled in front, making it hard to close. It’s clear Dells has a welcoming open door policy.
The GM at Rancho Carlsbad, Dells just began the job a little more than a month ago. I reached out after a co-worker found her contact information and asked me how often I stumble across a female GM. Unfortunately, the answer is occasionally, but certainly not often. Learning a little more about Dells, it turned out this was not her first GM job at a Southern California golf course.
Interested in her experience rising through the ranks at a SoCal golf course, I got in touch with Dells. I sure am glad I did. She had a lot to say about the golf industry, and her experience in it. Smart, motivated and extremely hard working, Dells is pushing the boundaries.
What’s your background in golf?
I grew up right down the street from here. I went to school at Tri-City Christian, a little private school in Vista, and started the golf team there. I was the only girl on the team because I couldn’t find any others who would play golf. I went on to earn a scholarship at Long Beach State.
What turned your playing career into one on the business side of the golf industry?
I was your typical burnout. Playing golf became a job. I lost the fun aspect of it. I just struggled with trying to get my degree and being on the road all the time. The great thing though is now years later, I can bring to my students a real example of what that experience is like and get them ready for it. You need to really love it. We’ll find the fun in golf and set them up for success. I got my degree and traveled around Europe for six months. When I got back, I asked my mom, who is a huge golfer, to go play. We went out and played El Camino CC. I shot 3-under and found the joy again. I wanted to go back and play the next day. Within 48 hours I was down at my mentor pro’s course asking for a job. He told me to go straight to the PGA and get my credential.
Why your PGA card as opposed to LPGA?
I never wanted anyone in a job situation to say “you don’t have all the qualifications, you’re just LPGA” and have that stigma. Nothing against the LPGA. I have thought about getting that too. The time for me to go play and teach goes out the window when I start doing this administrative stuff, and I just haven’t made the time for that yet.
You’ve clearly risen in the ranks. What has your experience been like?
I got my PGA card in 2004. Since then I’ve had a number of jobs, including GM positions at Fallbrook GC and Redhawk GC in Temecula. I don’t know how its happened where, I have been able to secure these jobs at all of these places, but I feel like they were all the right fits at the time, and my career has just been a steady incline since. But it’s not always easy. At one of my earlier jobs, I got a lot of “hey baby” and big hugs in the work place. There’s also been times when I believe I was the more qualified candidate but lost the job to a man. Recently I got to the final three for a job at a prestigious golf course near here. But the cool thing was I looked at the guy’s resume who got the job and said “you won. Hands down you earned this.” First time I really felt that way.
So what brought you here to Rancho Carlsbad?
People may look at a course like this as not being equivalent to Redhawk, but I look at it differently. There’s a lot of growth needed here, which is a huge opportunity. Who doesn’t want a project? Who doesn’t want to come into a place and help grow the game and make it fun for kids, for older generations? I love that part of it. This game is run typically by people who are used to doing it the same way. I’m always looking for the next coolest thing. Not sitting back and waiting for the next tournament to come our way.
What does that entail?
We’re going to have glow ball nights with live music on the patio. We’ve started having a SpeedGolf group out here. The cool thing about this property is that all of these golf companies are right here – TaylorMade, Cobra, Callaway. We are their lunch break. It’s so cool. I want to do more corporate events to involve those folks. Just thinking outside the box.
Anything else to say to FORE Her readers?
FORE Her recently wrote about the woman on the driving range who gets unsolicited advice from fellow golfers. I give her lessons. She goes to the range. And then some random person comes up behind her who can’t even hit a golf ball and tries to tell her what she’s doing wrong. I have armed my students with the phrase “thank you very much, but I am already getting instruction from my female PGA instructor.” That typically does the trick.