“I'm not a trained golf-course operator. I didn't go to college to learn how to run one. I was a football player. You learn real quick, when it's your investment on the line."
Ron Jaworski Golf has managed 13 facilities over the years, in four states. Earlier this month, it took ownership of its fourth course, the first at the Jersey Shore and probably the best of the group. Jaws is now the guy in charge of Egg Harbor Township's Blue Heron Pines, which in the early 1990s ignited the surge of quality daily-fee golf in the Greater Atlantic City region and has been recognized in a readers' poll in Golf World magazine as the 34th-best such layout in the country.
At a time when many folks are looking to get out of the industry because of the economic downturn, Jaws wanted to expand his interests. But why Blue Heron?
"This is a special place," said the owner of the Soul franchise of the Arena League. Jaworski's golf domain also includes Valleybrook (Blackwood. N.J.), Running Deer (Pittsgrove, N.J.) and RiverWinds (West Deptford, N.J.). "Our goal is to be great. There's a lot of fine golf courses down here. I'm proud to own one of them.
“I've been fortunate to get some good properties, where I can see something and run with them. I wish I could say I was smart enough 5 years ago to say this was my plan. I just kind of reacted. Maybe as a quarterback you see the coverage and saw there was an opening. I've looked at other shore opportunities that didn't work out. This one did. The response I've gotten from golfers at the other three has been absolutely overwhelming. I think it'll bring a lot of traffic down here."
The extremely hands-on Jaworski credits his wife Liz for handling much of the daily details while their son BJ is being groomed to eventually take over. They live in Medford, N.J., and have a house in Stone Harbor. He admits to carrying an 8 handicap.
"We needed another course, at the Jersey Shore," he explained. "We'll continue to grow the company. I think there are opportunities in the industry right now, and some more will become available. I'm pretty in tune to what's going on. Preferably in South Jersey, but there may be some others out of state. Right now I can get in my car and drive to any of our courses. That's been the focus. Relationships and community have always been important to me.
“You have to put countless hours in. That's why I have so much help. People say, ‘Why are you going down to the Atlantic City area? It's fiercely competitive down there.' We're all in the same business. If we do it right, and do it together, there's enough for everybody. We can all be successful."
He started playing golf when he was 9, at a place called South Park just outside of Buffalo. Where, if he was lucky, some years the season actually lasted a whole month. For the last decade or so, he has held his highly successful charity tournament at the prestigious Atlantic City Country Club. So he knows the territory. He just wants to make it even better.
"I've always been the type of guy who likes to see and feel and touch what he's doing," Jaworski insisted. "If it's going to get screwed up, there's no one to blame but myself. I enjoy the environment of golf, and the business has been good to me. I have to really pinch myself sometimes. I worked hard to make this happen. It wasn't easy. When I hear [designer] Stephen Kay talk about it, I get excited. I share those values. I have a little vision, too, about what I want it to be.
“We're going to make a huge impression, not only locally and statewide, but nationally. We're going to make people want to come play golf in this area. Together we can drive this, get it done. I do have ties with the governor's office, all those things that are important. Somebody has to recognize South Jersey. And if it's me kind of being the conduit, then I'm going to do it. It's just the notoriety [that helps]. How many people see me every week on TV? They can come here and say, ‘Hey, he's the same guy.' I'm no different."
Contact Mike Kern at firstname.lastname@example.org