As the general manager of some of the most prestigious golf clubs in the nation, Klemenz spends his work days surrounded by beautifully manicured links. Unfortunately, he usually is wielding a pen, not a club.
Managing a top 100 golf course is a long shot from his humble beginnings working in the kitchen of Mr. Steak in Orange, Conn., at age 17 and dreaming of one day becoming an executive chef at a five-star resort. He was so sure he wanted a cooking career that he attended the renowned Culinary Institute of America and then moved on to the University of New Haven. “The business classes at UNH were excellent. Studying economics and accounting proved very helpful in my career,” says Klemenz, a cum laude graduate of UNH. “I used a lot of what I was learning in what I was doing at the time.” Years later, he would share his pride in his alma mater by serving as president of the Alumni Association.
Smart, well-mannered and eminently likable, Klemenz was named chef at the Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club in Branford, Conn., at age 24 – a harbinger of bigger promotions to come. His first opportunity to manage a country club was at Pine Orchard, when the club manager was abruptly let go and he was asked to take on the task of running the club on an interim basis. Demonstrating his skills and talents very quickly, he soon was hired as the Club Manager for the New Haven Country Club, then spent 12 years as CEO of the Hartford Golf Club, then another several years running the exclusive Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, home of two PGA championships and seven USGA competitions, where he oversaw a $12 million renovation of the clubhouse and the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open. He had won his stars, outside of the kitchen. “I like the family orientation clubs offer,” he says. “There are nuances to the golf world; it’s more than just a food and beverage area.”
Now one of the most sought-after country club CEOs in the nation, Klemenz returned to Connecticut to run the Country Club of Fairfield, one of the state’s premier golf courses and ranked in the top 100 courses in the country. His is an idyllic existence, living on the course grounds overlooking the Long Island Sound, walking to work each day, and viewing the course and the Sound beyond from his office window. He may not have much free time to be a golfer, but he’s a connoisseur of courses and clubs. “It’s like a town, and you’re the town manager,” he says.
His motto? “Success is when preparedness meets opportunity.”
Posted Spring 2010