After more than 30 years of teaching people to play and appreciate the game of golf, and his efforts to support not only the facility he worked at, but a sister course as well, Tomahawk Hills Golf Course Golf Pro Jay Lispi has announced plans to retire in mid-March.
Lispi, who started at THGC in October 1990 as an assistant golf pro and was promoted in November 2013 to THGC golf operations manager, plans to retire effective March 18.
“Jay has had a legacy-like impact on Johnson County Park and Recreation District golf operations over his 30-plus year career,” said Superintendent of Parks & Golf Courses Bill Maasen. “Jay has taught hundreds of children the game of golf and has further grown the game by teaching golf to multiple generations. He has been steadfast in his management of Tomahawk, operating through numerous floods, construction projects which impacted the course, including development of a new clubhouse which opened in 2011, new golf holes, and other disruptions too numerous to list. One of his outstanding accomplishments was the effort put forth to generate revenue used to retire more than $2 million in debt required to construct Heritage Park Golf Course. Jay has donated his expertise to many charitable organizations including ‘Feed the Need’ through hosting multiple golf tournaments which have raised thousands of dollars over his career. Jay is an institution at JCPRD and will be missed but his fingerprints are all over the Parks & Golf Courses Division and the greater JCPRD.”
While golf has declined significantly over the past 20 years, Lispi is also proud of his handling of golf at THGC during COVID-19, which actually returned golf play to levels from many years ago.
“COVID-19 made the golf business flourish,” he said frankly. “The golf business was starting to take a dip downward and when COVID-19 hit, it just spiked back up because everybody was confined to home. People started playing golf who didn’t even play golf. It was like every day was a Saturday, and Saturday is the biggest day of the week in the golf business - it’s been that way for the past two years. We had to redo everything because nobody could come in (the building), everything had to be done outside the door or over the phone. We had to change our tee times to 20 minutes apart to keep people separated, we had to spray down the carts and disinfect them, we couldn’t come in contact (with patrons), and I had a little less people than I normally had, but they all stuck with it and we came through with flying colors. So, when everybody else’s business was becoming trying and they were losing business, we went up. COVID-19 was good for golf!”
Lispi said his favorite part of the job has been the social aspect of interacting with the various people he regularly comes into contact with.
“It’s the variety of people who walk in that you can talk to; it’s not like we’re a membership club,” he said. “Strangers come in and just talk, and you get to know them because they come back. It’s a customer service job and its fun making people happy when they hit a golf ball - they jump up and down after you’ve given them a lesson. They didn’t even think they could hit a ball and it’s gratifying. The goofy part is that some of these people still come in here and say ‘I took lessons from you 20 years ago,’ and it makes me feel old, but it always makes me feel good as well.
As far as retirement plans, Lispi says he plans to spend time relaxing with fishing and – wait for it - playing golf.
“I need to reacquaint myself with golf because I haven’t been able to play for at least the last two years because I had my two knees replaced,” he said. “It’s going to be kind of like starting all over. I also bought a 16-foot bass boat about five years ago, and I’ve had that out less than 12 times.”
A native of Shawnee, Lispi was on the golf teams at both Shawnee Mission Northwest High School and later at Johnson County Community College. He decided on a career in golf starting in 1973. Before coming to JCPRD, he worked as an assistant golf pro at number of courses in the region, including the Victory Hills Golf Club in Kansas City, Kan., (now Painted Hills); the Milburn Country Club in Overland Park; the Oakwood Country Club in Enid, Okla.; Dub’s Dread in Kansas City, Kan.; and the Blue Hills Country Club in Kansas City, Mo.