For more than four decades, Lee Nimnicht has been volunteering with THE PLAYERS Championship. This year, he serves as first vice chair.
Tell me about your career with the Nimnicht Family of Dealerships.
After graduating from JU, I came back to the car dealer Chevy store in 1991 and have been fulltime ever since. I’m in charge of the accounting and computer side of the business. I have a brother who handles the operational side, Billie. I’m secretary-treasurer across all of our corporation. We’re in our 83rd year, having started in ’41.
Your family has long been a part of THE PLAYERS Championship.
We supplied the vehicles to the first Greater Jacksonville Open. So, the family has ties to the tournament since its inception here in Jacksonville. My mother was chairman in 1997. My uncle was chairman in 1978.
How did you first become involved in the PLAYERS?
My first year was 1977. My mom was involved. She would pack me up and bring me along to the tournament with her. I was 7.
My first job was as a runner. It’s a little different than the runner job that we have these days. We worked in the scoring tents at 9 and 18. The players would come through. The scoring tent would make copy of their score card and we would run a copy to either the media center or we would run the card back to the golf group, to their marker.
Describe about your role with this year’s PLAYERS.
I basically run the tournament for the chairman … I also make sure that the most volunteers at any one point are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
How many volunteers are there?
As of Saturday [February 25], we were at 2,060 volunteers. It’s not the most we’ve ever had. We had 2,200 in ’18 or ’19, but that’s also when we had the most spectators out there. They’ve reduced the number of overall spectators. They’ve also reduced the number of volunteers, accordingly. We think 2,000 is a pretty good number to do all the things that we need to do to produce a world-class golf tournament.
Have you have made any specific preparations this year’s tournament?
We’ve had a rough couple of years. I mean, with the one-day tournament . Then, we had COVID-reduced capacity for both volunteers and spectators . And then, last year, with the thousand-year rain storm that decided to come upon us. So, we’ve had three not-normal tournaments. We’re hoping this year will be a normal tournament. We’re ready for whatever happens, whether it’s weather or anything that comes upon us.
From the TOUR side, they put the time and effort into shoring up a bunch of things that we learned from last year, such as the evacuation plan for the players and spectators. Last year gave us a new outlook on things. We have a much better handle on it than we did going into last year’s tournament.
Tell me about the relationship between THE PLAYERS and the community.
I think most of the volunteers will tell you that there are two reasons that they volunteer. One is the people, the other volunteers. We may only see them once a year, but every March we get back together with the people we call family. Whether they’re just family for that week or you see them all throughout the year, it’s getting back together with those 2,000 people.
The other aspect is the charity dollars. If you live here in Jacksonville you realize the impact that THE PLAYERS has on local charities. The big one you can’t help but think about the $2 million matching gift they gave to Nemours in October. If you look at the statistics, I think they said in the last 10 years, the amount of childhood cancer cases that Nemours has handled has doubled. That’s hard to fathom. Especially being a parent with two kids. Nemours is just one example. I think there are more than 300 charities over the history of the tournament that have benefitted by money raised from the tournament.
I did want to say from the volunteer side we have a great partner in the PGA staff of Championship management. This is their job, and we appreciate the fact that they let us participate in creating such a wonderful experience. Without Jared Rice and his team, we couldn’t do what we do. … And the job the red coats do can’t be overlooked.
You’ve lived on the First Coast your whole life.
Being born and raised here, I’m glad to call myself a Jacksonville native.
I learned a lesson early on from my dad and mom that the most important thing about living where you live is being able to give back. Luckily, we’ve been able through our companies to give back to a lot of organizations around the First Coast. That’s always stuck in my head. It’s something I’m trying to teach my kids. Hopefully, they’ll have the opportunity to continue the legacy that my grandfather and my dad and my uncle have taught us.
How do you spend your free time?
I’d like to say golf … I enjoy it, but I get most of my enjoyment from being around family and friends. I’ve got a daughter that’s in college now and a son that’s fixing to graduate from high school here in town. As you get older, you enjoy the time you spend with family and friends pretty much more than anything.
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