Jane Broderick began her career at the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL in 1986. Her first job was in the bag room. Now she runs the golf operation at the property that’s home to thousands of members, resort guests, and the annual Honda Classic.
Golf Conversations: I’m always interested in how people get their start in golf.
Jane Broderick: Mine’s pretty unique. My mom played golf up until the time she had kids. Once she started having kids, she gave up the golf game. When I was a senior in college, she had a heart attack in the fall. She said, “This summer I’m gonna start up golf again because I need to get more exercise.”
I was putting myself through college as a telephone operator from 3:30 to midnight, but during the day I would paint houses. Those were my summer days.
GC: Which college were you attending?
JB: I was at the State University of New York at Cortland. So I said to my mother, “I’m not going to paint houses in the morning, I’m gonna play golf with you.” That’s how it all started.
GC: You’d never played before?
JB: She took us out as kids to the Par 3 every once in a while. But nothing serious; so I really started that summer. There was a golf pro in the area that was known to be a good teacher. His name was Pat Palmieri. He was at a little 9-hole golf course called “Sacandaga,” which is near the Sacandaga Reservoir in upstate NY. It was originally a family-owned private golf course that he was able to secure for very little money.
Pat gave me a few lessons. He said, “You might have some potential, you should check out this place called PGA National.”
GC: Here in Florida?
JB: Yes. For years, we were the home base of all the club pros. With the PGA of America headquarters right here at PGA National, we hosted the majority of their club pro events throughout the winter. All the golf pros that spent any time in the South during the winter months knew of PGA National. So Pat said I should check it out.
I moved down here. Pat and his wife let me stay at their condo on Singer Island for a little while until I could get my bearings. Then my older brother’s wife, she realized she had an uncle that had a condo in Boca, so I got to rent his condo.
I sent my resume in. Called, called, called. Nothing, nothing, nothing. So one day I decided to just walk into the golf shop. I asked to speak with Bill Hobbs, who was the head professional at the time. This tall gentleman turned around and said, “I’m Bill Hobbs.” I said, “Hi, my name is Jane Stuart. I sent you my resume.” He said, “Yes, I was just about to call you; when can you start?”
GC: When you sent in your resume, what sort of position were you looking for?
JB: Bag room. Anything.
GC: Bag room. You had finished with college?
JB: I was done with college. I had that summer to play golf with my mom and figure out that I liked the game. I came down here in late November of ’85. I started working in the bag room in December of ’85. About halfway through the winter, the pro said to me, “I need someone to work in our tee time office. Do you know anyone with phone experience?”
GC: You had been a telephone operator!
JB: Right! So I moved from the bag room to the starting time office. I worked there until the spring. Then I felt obligated to go back home and I worked for Pat at his golf course.
GC: Why did you feel obligated to return home?
JB: Because Pat had done so much for me. And I wasn’t quite sure that I really liked it here. I went back home and worked at his golf course for $60 a week plus tips. I did everything: the bags, the carts, the golf shop, I served beer, I served sandwiches, I mowed the greens, I learned everything.
JB: Then PGA National called me mid-summer and said, “We really need you to come back in September. Can you do that?”
GC: What year was this?
JB: 1986. I came back on September 22, 1986 and I’ve never left.
GC: Jane, that’s a fabulous story.
JB: I’ve worn a lot of hats at PGA National: bag room, tee times, golf shop, golf shop manager, tournament coordinator, Director of Tournament Operations, Head Professional for 15 years and now Director of Golf for 11 years.
GC: What’s the next step, Governor of Florida?
JB: We’re thinking about a re-structure that will give me more responsibility of our sports and racket club and some of our membership services people. It’s fun. I love it here!
GC: I can see it on your face!
JB: I really do!
GC: You are in the 1% of the population who love what they do. Most people are pretty miserable.
JB: I’m very lucky to enjoy what I do every day.
GC: What is a typical day in the life of Jane Broderick?
JB: As you work your way up the ladder, you get less and less hands-on, but I really try to stay involved with the team. I’ll roll in, depending on the day, anywhere from 4:30 in the morning if it’s the Honda Classic Week … today, I was in at 7:30. I go out, check the operation, touch base with the golf shop, the bag attendants, make sure the ranges are set up the way they should be. Then I swing through the members’ club to check on the membership staff. I try to be in a supportive role until the day starts to settle in. Then I’ll come back to the office and book events, build tee sheets, and do budgets and forecasting. All that good stuff.
GC: And she says that with a smile on her face!
JB: Yeah, it’s fun!
GC: How many people are working for you?
JB: Roughly 125 that report to me.
GC: Do you have a particular management style?
JB: I think my style is “supportive and fair.” That’s the key. As a manager, you need to be a good leader. You need to have the skill set that you’re asking people to do so you can show them what you want done. I think you have to be extremely fair and consistent in how you treat your people. You have to be a good listener.
GC: What did you say?
JB: You have to be empathetic. At this point in my career, I’m kind of like “The Mom.”
Some of my staff members have worked with me for 15 years. We’re family. I’ve seen people start here and then they get married and have kids. Just like I’ve grown up here, a lot of my team has grown up here. It’s a unique place.
GC: You have members here and it’s a resort as well?
JB: Right. It’s definitely a mixed-use facility. From a golfing member perspective, we have about 2,000 golfing members, about 4,000 members altogether when you take into account the social members and the non-golf members. And a 339-room hotel.
GC: And most of the members live here?
JB: About 60% of our people stay year-round. The PGA National complex itself is 2,800 acres; 5,200 homes with about 10,000 residents. I would say 600-700 are actually members who live here. You don’t have to live on property to be a member. We have 400 men in our Men’s Golf Association; 200 of them play every Wednesday. We’ve got over 300 in our Women’s Golf Association and 120 of them play every Thursday.
GC: How many courses?
JB: Four courses on property and one off site.
GC: Where’s the offsite?
JB: It’s on Northlake Blvd., about 7 miles west of here. It’s called Bayhill Estates. I think we purchased it around ’87-’88.
GC: Correct me if I’m wrong: this resort – PGA National – is not owned by the PGA of America?
JB: No. Never has been. Mr. Ecclestone – who was the original developer – was a brilliant man.
GC: Especially if he hired you!
JB: The PGA of America golf pros would come down to BallenIsles, which is right across the Turnpike from us. It used to be called JDM Country Club. That was the mecca that golf pros would gravitate to. You could see them back in the day selling clubs out of their trunks. They needed a home. So Mr. Ecclestone went to the PGA of America which was formed in 1916 and said, “Hey, if I build you a building, can I use your name?” He built the main headquarters which sits on our front entrance.
I’m not exactly sure of all the details … there was a contract whereby the PGA of America owned the land for one of the golf courses. I think it was the Fazio design. But Mr. Ecclestone owned the capital improvements. So through that deal, we were able to use the PGA name. Our logo is very similar to the PGA of America’s.
GC: When did Mr. Ecclestone build the headquarters?
JB: The property opened in 1979-1980.
GC: With all of your responsibilities here, I get the feeling that you never get a chance to play golf.
JB: You know what? I’m a “Nine-and-Diner.”
JB: I like to play nine and then have a drink!
GC: You’re my kind of golfer!
JB: I can play like a pro for four or five holes. Then my attention seems to wane. I do actually love it. I don’t play golf here very often. I like to get away and play. If I play here I notice things like, “Oh, the rake’s not in the right place … how did that cup get damaged?”
GC: Or you don’t want people to hear you cursing!
JB: That, too! Or see how bad I really am!
GC: How often do you get to play?
JB: Probably once or twice a month. I have a lot of other interests.
GC: Such as?
JB: I’m not the average golf pro. I have a sixteen-year-old son who keeps me busy. I like other sports. I participate in triathlons.
JB: I’ve done six half-Iron Mans. I have another one scheduled in June. I’m an avid skier. I started skiing when I was two, racing when I was seven, and retired from racing when I was twenty.
I trained in Colorado with the Australian national team. Skiing is my true love. I also have my own charity that I founded in memory of my mom and dad. It’s called “How Big Is Your Brave Foundation.” We provide cancer patients, their families, and caregivers with educational and wellness programs.
GC: Do you have a website?
JB: We do. It’s www.HowBigIsYourBrave.org
GC: Did both of your parents have cancer?
JB: They did but neither one of them passed from that. My mom had breast cancer and my dad had prostate cancer. My mom died when she was 83; she could still hit it 200 yards at 83. My dad was a World War II and Korean War vet. He passed on November 11, 2014. He died on Veteran’s Day. It was kind of fitting. He flew 36 bombing missions in
B-17s. I come from an aviator family.
GC: What about you? Any interest in flying?
JB: Without a doubt. I was very close to starting to get my pilot’s license a long time ago and then I got back trouble.
GC: Tell me about the Honda Classic that’s played here.
JB: Ken Kennerly, the Executive Director, has done a great job in creating more than just a golf tournament. As soon as play is finished on Friday and Saturday nights, bands start to play. We have fireworks, there’s a kids’ zone; there’s more to it than just the old, stodgy golf tournament. Sikorsky sponsors a veteran’s outpost for active and retired military.
GC: The helicopter company?
JB: Yup. From a community perspective, they’ve done a really nice job … not to mention raising millions of dollars for the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
GC: How many years has the Honda Classic been here?
JB: The first year we had it was 2007.
GC: It was in various other locations…
JB: It had bounced around for a while until it found a home here. The Tour loves it, the Tour officials love it, the players love it, the community supports it. The field gets better and better every year.
When we host the Honda Classic, we keep our other golf courses open in full operation. So we’ll do 5,000 rounds of golf that week in addition to having 200,000 spectators on the property.
GC: Tell me about the course where the Honda is played.
JB: Jack Nicklaus renovated the Champion golf course in 2000. It was originally designed by the Fazios. He came in and completely re-designed it. Number Four used to be a par 3 facing one way; now it’s a par 4 facing the opposite direction. He added some spectator mounding to make it viewer friendly.
GC: And the players aren’t whining about it?
JB: They love it. They have to hit major championship shots on this golf course. It really is a great test of golf for them.
GC: That par 3 in the Bear Trap, where the water is on the right…
JB: 15, 16 and 17.
GC: How many times a year do the divers go in the water to retrieve golf balls?
JB: The divers come monthly.
GC: Monthly? How many are they pulling out of there?
JB: Annually, they probably get 300,000 golf balls out of our lakes.
GC: Holy balata!
JB: We play upwards of 150,000 rounds.
GC: Do they have alligators in these lakes?
JB: They do. The divers go in the water with a metal mesh suit on.
GC: Mesh suit? I’d go in a shark cage!
JB: Alligators and water moccasins, too. As many things as Mr. Ecclestone did really well when he developed the property, we’ve learned over time that the lakes that were dug were not dug well. Newer properties have lakes that allow the golf ball retriever companies to put a big wheel in and drag it across. The guys on our property have to feel through the muck with their fingers.
GC: I don’t think I could do that job.
JB: No, I wouldn’t like that either.
GC: But … you say you’ve done everything here.
JB: That’s one thing I haven’t done!
GC: Maybe you need to do that to become a well-rounded manager!
And on that note, thank you, Jane, for this delightful golf conversation.
JB: Thank you, Robert.