Grill

Jody Niemann

Champion Golfer and Golf Club Executive

By Richard S. Gubbe

Jody Niemann has literally turned the world of golf course management upside down. Not only is she the first woman to manage a major course in Las Vegas, she plans on making Royal Links Golf Club all-inclusive.

She is not intimidated in her new challenge, already having gone up against the likes of Tiger Woods and competing with men since age 8. After breaking barriers and basking in success, Niemann has found a home.

“Royal Links will remain a prime tourist attraction, but we have changed our philosophy to also cater to locals with discounted local rates, non-peak and military rates while offering nontraditional special events to the community,” Niemann says.

Niemann oversees a course created to honor Scottish tradition, which features holes inspired by 11 Open Championship rotation courses, including the “Road Hole” and “Hell Bunker” from the Old Course at St. Andrews and the “Postage Stamp” from Royal Troon.

“I have traveled the world and experienced high-end customer service and supreme hospitality. Now I want to watch Royal Links reach its full potential.”

 She has been a champion, winning titles at Arizona State University before moving up to the LPGA Tour.  She coached two seasons at the University of Arizona, then three at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her first Vegas job was head pro at Desert Pines. When Shelby Futch of the Scottsdale Group bought Royal Links last fall, Niemann was in the right place at the right time.

DAVID: How did you get your job at Royal Links?

JODY: Shelby offered me the opportunity to be the GM in a very impromptu conversation over coffee just after he had let the existing GM go. I had hours to decide and obviously with the deep love for golf operations that I have, I grabbed the opportunity. Little did either of us know at the time that we were making history.

DAVID: What is the most fun you ever had on a course?

JODY: The most fun I ever had was playing with my grandpa instead of being on a backhoe or a dump truck. We were a family of potato farmers from Idaho. My sister and I spent time with our grandfather because our parents worked so much. We had a choice to go with grandpa and work or go shopping with grandma. I stayed with grandpa and he taught me the game of golf.

DAVID: And playing with Tiger Woods?

JODY: Tiger was the first African-American I ever met in my lifetime at age 13 at the PGA Jr. Championship event in Florida. We were seated at the head table as we were the youngest to ever play in the event.  He was leading for the boys and I was nowhere close to the lead. We were teasing back and forth all night, which continued through our friendship. He was a big jokester, making fun of how females swing and over finish. He would put my visor on upside down and backward and mimic my swing and I would try to mimic his swing. We would compete on closest to the pin on a par 3. He was using a nine iron and me a four iron and I would say it wasn’t fair.  He would tell me to suck it up and put it as close as I can. He made me mentally tough so now what anyone says or does doesn’t affect me like it would most females.

DAVID: Other than winning a big tournament, what other satisfaction do you get from golf?

JODY: When I coached young athletes in the PAC-12 and WAC Conferences, I transformed their golf dreams into reality. That was truly gratifying. Coaching golf gives back to a sport that has been good to me.

DAVID: What psychological intimidation tactics do you try when you play against men?

JODY: It’s being cool and collected in the beginning not giving too much information. When they ask, did you play competitively? I say ‘a little bit.’ When they say ladies first and I’m in high heels, I go up and hit a 250-yard drive down the middle and then say I wish I would have connected better. I’m not a long hitter but accurate even in high heels and that’s intimidating to lose to a girl. They know that are going to hear it from their buddies and that puts the pressure on. I don’t talk smack and let them talk themselves into a hole especially if we are playing the same tees. Then that’s when I start talking. Just like Tiger was with me.

DAVID: What brand of shoes is best for outdriving a man for your charity challenge?

JODY: I’m really not your typical golf dresser. It’s important for a woman to feel comfortable and sexy, to feel good about herself. I want to be who I am. I’m different and non-traditional. For intimidating shoes, I’ll take a pair of size 8 Louis Vuitton.

DAVID: How does your competitive spirit work as a GM?

JODY: The hard part is men are going to be watching, seeing how a female operates versus a male. They may say, ‘that’s not going to work, she’s going to fail.’ Overall, I want my competitors to do the best they can because you want to beat them at their very best.

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