From a young age, Christine Pooler knew that service was in her blood. Growing up in Glenwood, Minn., she enjoyed acting as her mother’s caddie on the golf course, shouldering her golf bag around Minnewaska Golf Club. It propelled her desire for a career in hospitality, one that has taken her on a 25-plus year journey through the private club industry at various clubs. Over time she worked her way from server, to dining room manager, to banquet manager, to clubhouse manager, and eventually to general manager, learning plenty of lessons along the way.
Three things have always meant the most to Christine: her family, her career and the water. The lakes of Minnesota are where Christine developed a deep appreciation for being on the water—sailing remains one of her favorite pastimes.
“Throughout my life’s journey, sailing is what I do to reflect, find peace, and gain insight on my next steps,” says Christine. Her passion for sailing may also explain her afnity for identifying and following her own “true north” throughout her professional journey. Like a sailor using a compass to guide the way, Christine has leaned on integrity and character to guide her and give her purpose as a leader.
Christine’s career in the private club industry began in 1994 at Vineyards Country Club in Naples, Fla. She arrived for her interview wearing a navy blue blazer in hopes of acquiring a managerial role, but all they had to ofer was a server position. She took it anyway, and was eventually promoted to dining room manager and then banquet manager. She then moved on to serve as clubhouse manager at the Country Club of Rochester in New York and then Wilmington Country Club in Delaware before earning her first general manager role at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
During her decade at Merion, Christine coordinated the hosting of the 2009 Walker Cup and 2013 U.S. Open, and oversaw $19 million in capital improvements that included the construction of a state-of-the-art maintenance facility, learning center and banquet venue. After Merion, she served as director of club operations at Augusta National before taking on her current role as the general manager of Indian Creek Country Club in Florida.
Indian Creek is a small club on a secluded private island of the coast of Miami. It features golf, tennis, croquet and dining and social programming. “The club has an intriguing blend,” said Christine. “It is an exclusive and private club located in an exciting, vibrant and culturally global community.” Its idyllic island location has also placed Christine where she feels her best—by the water.
How has Christine managed to be a consistently efective leader in all of her roles at very diferent clubs throughout her career? She credits her ability to remain committed to her true north—being true to herself, her integrity and her character. In all of her roles, identifying and embracing each club’s unique culture has been central to Christine’s leadership philosophy—so has building an exceptional team. In 2014, Christine was honored with the James H. Brewer Award for Excellence in Club Management, given to exceptional managers of clubs with more than 600 full-privilege members.
Christine believes paying it forward is deeply important. She has been a longtime supporter of developing young professionals for the industry through education and mentoring. For more than a decade, she was a guest lecturer and mentor for students in the University of Delaware’s CMAA program.
The desire to strengthen the industry, a common goal shared by all club leaders, is also why Christine has been an active member of the National Club Association. She credits her mentor Steve Klee for teaching her, as a young manager in the industry, the purpose and importance of the Association in providing advocacy, insight and governance to clubs around the nation. As chair, Christine looks forward to tapping into her inner compass once again to guide NCA in efectively serving its purpose for members.
Her commitment to promoting the strength of the club industry goes back to her desire as a young woman to pursue a career in hospitality. “I love people,” Christine said. “I love helping, coaching, encouraging, inspiring.”
When she is not working on leading Indian Creek Country Club, developing talent or advocating for the industry, there are two places you’ll likely find Christine: spending time with her family in Minnesota, or out on the water, reflecting and searching for her next steps.
Phillip G. Mike is managing editor of Club Director magazine. He can be reached at 202-822-9822 or [email protected].