Spotswood Turns To Familiar Face

New Challenges For Club’s Former GM

Posted: August 9, 2013

Aki Heydarian has returned to an old role, that of Spotswood Country Club general manager. Heydarian, who was the Harrisonburg club’s GM from 1994 to 2003, hopes to reinvigorate membership at the club, which like many others has been affected by the recent economic downturn. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Spotswood Country Club General Manager Aki Heydarian (right) chats with board member Jeff Nemoytin (left) and club pro Dan Stepnicka in Spotswood’s pro shop Thursday.
HARRISONBURG — The “new” general manager of Spotswood Country Club is an old face in a familiar place, but he’s got a whole different set of challenges than the last time he was at the helm.
 
Aki Heydarian, 56 — who was the club’s general manager from 1994 to 2003 — recently accepted the job again on a permanent basis after filling in temporarily since early June.
 
With golf, and private clubs in particular, taking a huge hit because of the recent economic downturn, Heydarian will try to refill Spotswood’s membership ranks by reconnecting the club with the community.
 
“The golf industry has gone through its worst cycle since its inception in America in the last few years. The economy has hit everyone hard, including clubs, and the addition of many, many high-end public facilities” also has hit private clubs’ bottom lines, he said.
 
The golf industry hit its peak around 2000 during what’s often referred to as the “Tiger wave” as pro golfer Tiger Woods’ rise to the game’s upper echelon was all abuzz, Heydarian said.
 
During that time, Spotswood’s membership was about 700, he said, and now, it’s 516.
 
“Our goal is to increase the number to 700 to 750,” he said.
 
Now that the economy has improved somewhat, people are returning to the golf club, Heydarian said, but there’s still work to be done.
 
Efforts to bring in new members or returning ones include reaching out to the communities at the area’s colleges: Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, and James Madison University.
 
Heydarian has been meeting with local business leaders as part of an effort to rekindle his previous relationships.
 
He also is focusing on improving food and beverage offerings, and the club recently brought on board Ryan Rudnick, a chef who previously worked in Charlottesville, Heydarian said.
 
“The entire facility we have is a full-service facility with years of tradition and our goal is …  to reconnect with the community, as this club has been a very strong part of the community in the past, and I would like to continue that trend,” he said.
 
Spotswood’s board of directors turned to Heydarian for assistance when the previous general manager, Tom O’Malley, became ill while visiting family in Arkansas.
 
O’Malley, 56, died about three weeks ago in Arkansas. His obituary doesn’t list a cause of death.
 
Spotswood’s board tapped Heydarian to serve as interim general manager after O’Malley was hospitalized and it became clear he would need a long recovery period, said Jay Monger, chairman of the board.
 
“Our intention was, hopefully, he would recover and return to us,” Monger said.
 
Following O’Malley’s death, club officials asked Heydarian to step back into his former role.
 
Heydarian, a Maryland native, has more than three decades in the golf club business, having worked in Lynchburg and Fredericksburg before coming to Harrisonburg.
 
He left Spotswood in 2003 to take a job with a club in the Washington, D.C., area. He recently semiretired, planning to work as a consultant.
 
Then the call came from Harrisonburg.
 
“We’re very excited that he’s back,” Monger said. “He was a big part of the Spotswood community for a long time, as well as the general community in Harrisonburg.”
 
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com



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