What does it take to build a highly-successful pro shop?
First, it takes a vision and a plan forged through years of learning at the hands of experienced professionals. Then, it takes the wherewithal to enact that vision and plan and a talented and dedicated staff eager to execute that vision and plan on a daily basis through hard work. A ton of hard work. Brian Tolnar has it all and that is why the director of golf at Mill Creek MetroParks Golf Course in Boardman will be recognized on a national level by the Professional Golfers Association of America.
Tolnar was named the PGA Merchandiser of the Year- Public Category Award winner today during opening ceremonies at the PGA Show in Orlando, Fla. National awards are not easy to come by, whether it’s playing the game or promoting it. Tolnar is just the sixth member of the Northern Ohio PGA Section to be acknowledged nationally and the first to be named national merchandiser of the year since 1982.
Tolnar, a three-time winner of the NOPGA Merchandiser of the Year Award, was in the process of preparing financial statements for a Friday morning staff meeting when a call came in from PGA President Jim Richardson. It was a call Tolnar never expected but a call he’ll never forget.” “When the call came in I was shocked and speechless,” he recalled. “It caught me off guard. Your heart starts pounding immediately. It took me two weeks of totally sleepless nights for it to finally register.”
After Tolnar returned to earth he was able to put things in perspective. “Anytime you have the opportunity to win one of these prestigious awards it’s a total honor, whether at the Section level or especially the National level,” he said. “It’s a career changing opportunity professionally and a game changer for our golf operation at the Mill Creek MetroParks.”
Awards such as this are not the result of one man’s work and Tolnar was quick to acknowledge those around him. “It all started with the men I learned from, Michael Spiech at Tippecanoe and Dave Coller and Dave Boos at what is now Pine Lakes,” he said. “I learned so much from both of them.”
He also credited Aaron Young, the executive director of Mill Creek MetroParks, and Mill Creek Head Professional Stacie Butler and Assistant Golf Professional Ryan Turnbull.
“Aaron gives us the opportunity to do what we do and Stacie and Ryan bring energy and expertise to the course every day,” he said.
Mill Creek’s courses played host to approximately 87,000 rounds in 2021. It also played host to 70 outings, 41 leagues, a strong junior program, eight high school teams and the men and women squads from Youngstown State.
All under the watchful eye of Tolnar and Co.
TOLNAR’S FIVE PILLARS OF MERCHANDISING
All good plans start with a solid foundation. Here is the foundation behind Brian Tolnar’s merchandising philosophy, which has earned him the 2021 National Merchandiser of the Year by the PGA of America.
1. Know and understand your customers: Success is predicated on understanding your customers’ preferred styles, brands and seasonal needs. It is necessary to continuously evolve the merchandise to align with what sells.
2. Stay on top of the latest trends: My staff and I strive to keep up with the latest trends. That requires remaining educated on club and ball-fitting, scheduling educational seminars and attending the PGA Merchandise Show. If we identify a product or line that aligns with our customer preferences, we spotlight the new items and evaluate its sales potential. We also conduct demo days and other hands-on sales programs. Working directly with our customers allows for a highly personalized sale and keeps a pulse on their evolving tastes/needs.
3. Hire, train and prepare a proper staff: We pride ourselves on our honesty and integrity, abiding by the motto, “Do it right or not at all.” This means never cutting corners when it comes to service quality. I regularly reinforce the need to be up front throughout the sale. In my experience, honesty solidifies the type of customer relationships that drive future business.
4. Keep the golf shop new and fresh: Keeping customers on their toes and touching their five senses makes for an always-interested buyer, which can generate huge returns. Every time a potential customer enters our concession, I want them to experience something new. This requires continuously refreshing displays and circulating new items or styles. So, every five to seven days our displays and merchandise are re-arranged throughout the facility. This includes nesting tables, mannequins, window displays, and shoe and clothing racks.
5. Love what you do or you’ll never do it well: Adjust, adapt and evolve. If you don’t love what you’re doing you’re never going to do it well. Members of the Mill Creek team showcase their enthusiasm for the game, the customer and the products.
Brian Tolnar Facts
NAME: Brian Tolnar
HOMETOWN: Hubbard, Ohio
AFFILIATION: Mill Creek Metroparks Golf Course, Boardman
POSITION: Director of Golf
TURNED PROFESSIONAL: June, 1996
EDUCATION: Hubbard High School, Youngstown State University, PGA Professional Golf Management University, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
PGA Classification: Class A-4
PREVIOUS POSITIONS: Assistant Professional: Hubbard Golf Course, Hubbard, Ohio, Alliance Country Club, Alliance Ohio. Head Professional: Avalon Lakes Resort, Warren, Ohio, Triple Creek Golf Club, Nunda, N.Y. General Manager & PGA Director of Golf, Blue Heron Hills Golf Club, Rochester, N.Y.
FAMILY: Wife Amber; Son Preston (7)
ABOUT MILL CREEK: Two 18-hole championship courses designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1928; an 18-hole lighted par-3 course located at the Mill Creek MetroParks Wick Recreational Area. Facility sits on approximately 900 acres.
PRO SHOP: Approximately 700 square feet serves all three courses.
THE RESUME: The Northern Ohio PGA Merchandiser of the Year, 2016-2018-2020; Western New York PGA Junior Player Development Award, 2012; Western New York PGA Merchandiser of the Year, 2013; Western New York PGA Section Player Development Award, Western New York PGA Section Professional of the Year, 2014; American Junior Golf Association PGA Professional of the Year, 2019.
Tim is a Contributing Writer for the Northern Ohio PGA. Award-winning golf writer and sports reporter for the Plain Dealer, now retired. Contributor to the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, AP, other national publications.