Kimberly Lawlor has worked both sides of the golf business. She ran South Hampton for eight years, dedicating herself to the business side of the sport. Now she’s the teaching professional at Palm Valley Golf Club where she can focus on the game itself. And like most, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many changes for Lawlor at the course – but it’s all been for the good.
As told to Don Coble
What is your background?
I played at JU (Jacksonville University) and I turned pro 25 years ago. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Actually, I played softball. I didn’t switch to golf until about 15. I was a late golfer, if you will.
It seems like your business at Palm Valley has picked up during the COVID-19 threat.
It’s been packed, that’s for sure. We’re blessed to be open. It’s been a challenge keeping up with the range balls. We’re doing 100 buckets a day, which is on the plus side for us. It’s a good challenge. You go with it. We’re doing lots of rounds – more than normal and the buckets of balls are crazy.
Your course is unique in St. Johns County, isn’t it? With many being ordered to stay home, not only has golf been deemed an essential need, it allows people to get out in fresh air, maintain distancing and get exercise, doesn’t it?
Yes. Everyone walks and you can use a pull cart if you absolutely need it. We, of course, have to wipe them down. On the weekends, we’re doing 100 rounds on a par-3 course. It’s crazy.
You’re a member of the PGA and the LPGA. What are the benefits of that?
It’s good thing. As a female, I have the chance to be a PGA member. They are different in that the LPGA focuses a lot more on the teaching side and the PGA focuses a lot more on the business side. It’s a good balance to have. That’s a good thing in my career to have both.
What is it like to be in the golf business in a place like St. Johns County?
My background is I came from South Hampton. I ran it for eight years. I was the general manager there. I’m doing different stuff now, focusing more back on the teaching side of things. I’ve been fortunate in my career to be able to cover both an 18-hole facility as a GM and now turn the table and be a teaching pro.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
It’s very rewarding when you see someone figure something out during a lesson, especially for that beginner who’s never played. All of a sudden you tell them a few things and they light up with their ball goes up in the air. You can take a perfect practice swing and you put that little white ball there, it changes everything. But it’s very rewarding to focus on teaching. I can set my own schedule. I’m not around the clock like I used to be when I had to run an entire facility.
What is you best moment on the golf course?
I won as an amateur, a tournament at Osprey Cove (in St. Marys, Georgia) back in the ‘90s, shooting 1-under-par. That was pretty cool.