Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | A wall at Linda Gregory’s office at Myrtle Beach National displayed a keepsake of her time with the company.
The oversized frame includes photos of many of the fellow employees who have come and mostly gone during her 30 years at the three-course site. Gregory, National’s outgoing food and beverage director, is about to join many of the ones who left before her as she has formally announced her retirement.
“I’ve met people now from all over the world. The many different countries that have walked in here to play golf, not to mention every state, has been a highlight of my life,” Gregory said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up, but I’m about to find out.”
It’s been a bittersweet few weeks of celebration and goodbyes for not only Gregory, but also lead irrigation technician Steve York. His last day at the course was in late February, ending his run of 36 years, nearly to the day.
Add in the likes of W.P. Galloway (46 years), Dennis Sarvis (38 years) and Mike Weinrich (11 years), and National’s list of employees who have remained for lengthy stays bucks a current industry trend of moving from one course to another.
“I don’t see it long-term like we’ve been,” York said. “I see people doing it two-three years and moving on. I’ve seen so many changes. I’ve gone through so many superintendents. They re-did the SouthCreek course. Then in 1994-95, the Palmer group came in and re-did the other two.”
In the departures of York and Gregory, it is clear just how much stability they helped provide, even as incidental as their beginnings with the company may have seemed.
York earned a statistical mathematics degree from the University of Toledo, hoping for a job in a Major League Baseball front office. When that didn’t pan out, he did commercial real estate appraisal before a part-time work on a hospital grounds in Ohio and then a move to the Myrtle Beach area grew his love for working outdoors.
He wrote a letter to every course in the area, and the one that responded, Myrtle Beach National, gained his services for the next three-and-a-half decades.
Likewise, Gregory wasn’t planning on a long-term career in golf when she started at the courses in February of 1988. Weeks prior, her and her husband had sold their short-order grill and convenience store and purchased a new home with the intent of retiring. Not long after, she felt confined by all the sitting around and saw an advertisement for the food and beverage job.
Instead, she was not only hired, but given the keys to one of the most visible parts of the property. She hired and fired employees, shaped the business-side of the food operation and did what she had to in order to keep the customers happy.
She also outlasted 12 head golf professionals. The 13th she worked with, Ryan Ruddy, said Gregory and York became the standard at Myrtle Beach National, something echoed by Weinrich, the site’s superintendent.
“They retain a majority of their employees here because it such a focal point of the beach,” Ruddy said. “Granted, some of the pros or supers have moved around. But for the most part the workers are staying here. It’s kind of that family-oriented culture.”
Said Weinrich: “They hold everything together and are a huge part of the operation. Others have seen how they’ve moved up and aspire to do that as well.”
It’s been that way for so long that many of the faces working National day in and out have been employed long enough to work under three different ownership groups. Their commitments, however, have kept the property as an anchor for the Myrtle Beach golf scene since the early 1970s, when the King’s North, West and SouthCreek courses were three of the original 15 to open in the area.
Not long after, following a massive boon, South Carolina’s Grand Strand became known as Golf Capital, U.S.A.
York and Gregory saw that development from the inside out. And they helped craft more of it than they probably understand.
“I’m just an old dinosaur, Gregory said. “I’ve been very comfortable here. I’ll walk out the door with no regrets. I’ve done everything I could do.”