Meet Derek Crawford – An Arizona Golf Star
There are many things unique about Derek Crawford. He is a third generation Arizonan. He is an identical twin. He can’t talk about himself without talking about his brother. He played catch with Willie Mays. He believes you must treat people right. And he is the first Arizona Golf Authority Golf Star.
Derek grew up in the Encanto neighborhood in Phoenix. His parents were not golfers. He and brother Daryl loved sports. They hung with their best friend Vince who played golf. Daryl and Derek played baseball, but they wanted to hang with Vince so they took up golf.
Derek was immediately hooked on golf. He, Daryl and Vince cut their teeth at Encanto Golf Club, a Phoenix muni course right down the street. “In those days, we had to bring our own balls to the range. You’d hit them and then shag them,” said Derek. The 10th hole was across the street from the golf shop and the staff couldn’t see the tee, needless to say they knew the back nine like the back of their hand!
School provided another opportunity for Derek to test his skills. Both he and Daryl played on the St. Mary’s High School golf team, and then went on to Phoenix College and ASU. Being part of the ASU team meant Derek received their maroon and gold golf bag with ASU bright letters, which he thought cool to be seen carrying at the golf course.
The Golf Business Calls
“After college, Crawford knew he wanted to be in the golf business, something for which he feels incredibly fortunate to know at an early age. “I see so many kids today starting or graduating from college who have no idea what they want to do,” commented Crawford. “I was lucky because I knew right away.”
Derek’s pursuit of a career in golf began in 1980 with a 7-year stint at Orange Tree Golf Club in Scottsdale, starting out in the bag room. “At that time in the golf industry, you started in outside service and then worked your way up to become an assistant professional and get inside the shop,” stated Derek. Daryl worked at the course too, which created some interesting stories. “I would go out to a car to get a players bag and put it on a golf car, then the guy would go inside the shop and be confused,” Derek told us. “Standing behind the desk was the guy he just saw outside, but now he was wearing a different shirt. The funny thing is that Daryl was tipped a lot for the work I did.”
After a 2-year stint under Paul Purtzer at Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale as the head golf professional, Derek received a call from PING to be a their US TOUR rep. Derek jumped at the chance and spent the next five years on the road.
Derek stayed with PING until 1995, leaving to get back in the golf shop with stops at ASU Karsten in Tempe and its sister course, StoneCreek in Phoenix. Fast forward to 2001 and a call from OB Sports executive Phil Green. The call came with an invitation to visit a new course being designed in Fountain Hills. “When I met with Phil, the course didn’t even have a name yet,” stated Crawford. “I thought it was really something special. Phil told me there was no title for my role, but what he wanted me to do was network, capture business and then make sure our customers were treated right so they would come back.”
It’s All About The Customer
“Dick Hyland (longtime Arizona golf professional) used to tell his staff that the customer deserves your very best every day and I believe that,” commented Derek. “He is absolutely correct as I really believe customer service is a lost art. I think it is simple, yet not easy.
“We-Ko-Pa could not have opened at a more challenging time (December 2001), so we knew we had to set a different standard for customer service,” commented Crawford. “From the beginning, we tried to do things differently. We set a fair price for golf, not an inexpensive one, but a fair one. We offered Arizona residents a local play rate and most important, we hired people who understood our service would determine whether our customers would not only come back, but tell their friends about us.”
“No matter what the cost of a round of golf, it is money out of the customer’s pocket so paying attention will be the difference between a good and bad experience,” said Derek. “I like to use the example of seeing a guest with his hands full, it’s not hard to get over there, smile and open the door for him so he doesn’t have to struggle. We ask all our employees to engage with our customers, asking about their round, thanking them for playing We-Ko-Pa and inviting them back. In a world that seems to be less civil every day, I really believe little things make a big impact.”
We checked in with the dean of golf and customer service, Jim Saunders, who for years made sure everything was just right at Desert Highlands and later at Whisper Rock Golf Club.
Jim, who now looks after the Nanẻa Golf Club for founders George Roberts and Charles Schwab on the big island of Hawaii, came right to the point. “Derek surrounds himself with a team who believe, and act, as he does” stated Saunders. “Whatever they can do to enhance the guest’s experience today, they do. Because they want to, not because they have to.”
In a world where the mantra seems to be “customer non-service”, it’s refreshing to know there are still people out there like Derek Crawford who get it. That is what makes him our very first Arizona Golf Authority Golf Star.