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Wolcott also wears special hat: entertaining the entertainers

PGA golf pro leading Tunical National into grand opening

TUNICA – Tracking down golf pro Bob Wolcott at the Tunica National Golf and Tennis Club is not an easy task.

One day, he is making the rounds with a golf media familiarization tour set up by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). The next day, he is playing golf with music superstar Michael Bolton.

“We had fun,” said Wolcott. “Michael`s a nice guy and a class individual. I’d played with him before so we had a good time. Tony Bennett`s coming in soon. Next month, it`s a who`s who of folks coming in to play, and we hope to have a lot more entertainers come through as Tunica continues to grow into an even stronger entertainment capital.”

For the most part, Wolcott`s office remains empty during prime daytime hours while he is constantly on the move greeting clients, playing rounds with special guests and holding staff meetings. He bookends administrative duties before sunrise and after sundown.

“I like it that way,” he said. “My job is to be out there among the players and staff. My wife`s used to it.”

Two weeks before the official March 1 opening of the Tunica National Golf and Tennis Club – the grand opening is slated for May 18 – golf pro Wolcott was promoted to general manager of the Tunica County-owned facility that features an 18-hole championship golf course and an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse housing four Davis Cup-quality indoor clay tennis courts.

KemperGolf Management, a division of Northbrook, Ill.-based Kemper Sports, tapped Wolcott, who had managed the teaching facility and coordinated outing business as Tunica National`s director of golf, to oversee operations and marketing strategies for the facility.

“Bob has a wealth of experience in the game of golf and will be instrumental in helping us establish Tunica National as the premier public golf course in the area,” said KemperGolf president Steve Skinner.

Before joining KemperSports, Wolcott, coincidentally a direct descendent of Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, had served as director of golf for GreyStone Golf Club in his hometown of Dickson, Tenn.

An Arnold Palmer recipient at Wake Forest University, Wolcott transferred to the University of Georgia (UGA), where he earned an undergraduate degree in business education in 1984. At UGA, he was a three-time SEC first-team All-American. During his distinguished junior career, he won the state amateur open title.

From 1989 to 1992, Wolcott competed on the PGA Tour, finishing third at both the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic and Greater Greensboro Open. In the 1990s, Wolcott also played the Nike Tour, now called the Nationwide Tour. He and his wife, Valarie, and their sons Benjamin, eight, and twins, Hunter and Collier, six, reside in Tunica County.

The Mississippi Business Journal caught up with Wolcott to chat with him about his career, Tunica National and special interests. MBJ also learned that his best friend, whom he described as “the brother I never had,” was none other than country music superstar Vince Gill.

MBJ: MDA tourism director Craig Ray has discussed his interest in bringing national events to Mississippi, specifically the possibility of bringing a tennis tournament to Tunica, perhaps a regular stop on the USTA tour. What needs to happen on your end for that to become a reality?

Bob Wolcott: A study is underway to determine exactly what needs to be done to make that happen. Plans are on the drawing board, and we`ll do our best to have a facility that would meet USTA tour events.

MBJ: Would the golf course lend itself to being marketed as a stop on the PGA tour?

BW: Oh, yes, no question about it. Attracting the best events is obviously what we want in Tunica. We’d love to be part of the PGA tour. Being so close to Memphis, it`s doubtful we’d be a regular tour stop, so our goal is to host a championship senior tour event.

MBJ: Overall, how do you plan to market Tunica National Golf and Tennis Club?

BW: It`s such an outstanding facility that it practically sells itself. We’ve contracted with Combs and Company in Little Rock, Ark., that`s done a wonderful job getting our name out throughout the country in different tennis and golf magazines, and through radio and sponsored events. Kemper is helping advise those marketing strategies.

Basically, we’re inviting people to the great state of Mississippi. They know Tunica is here because of the gaming aspect, but Tunica National gives them something to do with their leisure time when they’re not in the casinos. I think the facility is great for Mississippi, and is the crown jewel of Tunica County. People are going to be very impressed and there will obviously be word-of-mouth advertising.

This area has so many different markets to draw from – St. Louis, Oklahoma, the Gulf Coast, Jackson, Birmingham, Dallas and middle Tennessee, where I’m from. We`ll focus on those areas.

MBJ: Tell us some unique characteristics about the resort, and what

KemperSports brings to the table.

BW: Just the practice facility itself, with a 360-degree driving range, sits on 27 acres. That`s very rare. Bunkers are on the inside of the range. We can help with your iron game, and uneven lies that aren`t offered in most practice centers. We have a heated and cooled indoor practice facility, so you can really set up any kind of practice you want to have in the game of golf. There`s a very unique six-hole pitching golf course, with holes from about 50 to 60 yards. It`s one of a kind. The golf course has the most up-to-date technology, from grasses to maintenance to tennis courts. We want to be the best, and Kemper has only put the best things in here to operate with.

KemperSport`s mission is to bring world-class service to its facilities, no matter whether it`s one with a $100 green fee or a $9 green fee. This philosophy fits right in with Tunica National`s, which is to bring people to Mississippi, treat them with Southern hospitality and also give them world-class service.

MBJ: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

BW: I’m a huge music fan. Vince Gill`s one of my best friends. I’ve played a lot of golf with him. I have one of his platinum records sitting in my office and I’ve been in two of his music videos. I’ve gone on many bus trips with him. He`s the brother I never had. One bad thing about leaving the middle Tennessee area is not seeing a great friend like that everyday. But I’ve gained new friends here, and developed good relationships, and that`s what life is all about. Hopefully, Vince will be here for the grand opening in May.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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