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Egypt Valley Country Club: A Home Away From Home

If there is one thing certain in our world today, it’s change.

A competitive global marketplace, rapidly changing technology and the increased mobility of our society all contribute to making change an inevitable reality for most of us. The world we fall asleep to at night is often different than the one we wake up to in the morning.

Yet a significant part of the human spirit longs for the familiarity of lasting relationships and less change relative to the things we come to value in our lives. Unconsciously, most of us are on a constant journey in search of places where we can feel welcome and safe and find comfort—where everybody knows our name, is accepting and appreciates us for who we are.

That is part of the experience that Egypt Valley strives to provide for its member families: A special place to gather and enjoy association with others of like interests, values and passion—a place that becomes, for many, a home away from home.

Perhaps that same factor attracts many of the professionals who come to work at Egypt Valley. There is satisfaction that can come from working with others who share your values, help contribute to your well-being and become a part of helping make your life something better.

In a world of constant change, Egypt Valley Country Club is recognizing and celebrating a number of professional staff members who, for 20 years or more, have dedicated their career work and passion in service to the Club.

Susie Wierenga was one of the first employees who joined the professional staff when Greenridge Country Club relocated to Ada Township in fall 1990 and became Egypt Valley Country Club. In the following 28 years, what began as receptionist duties evolved into key front-of-the-house supervisory positions and eventually led to the responsibility of Club Comptroller. Susie’s calm demeanor and friendly smile are constants that club staff have come to appreciate and depend on.

Still, a friendly, yet spirited debate about which clubhouse staff member has the longest tenure occasionally surfaces.

Joe Mazgalis is in his 22nd year at Egypt Valley. You may come across Joe handling bar service duties when you come to the Club for an event, or on a busy night in the dining room. You may have experienced Joe preparing a sandwich or salad in the Club’s Trophy Room. He’s a willing, valuable, versatile member of the foodservice team who is able to perform a variety of duties.

With some pride, Joe maintains that his long full-time service allows him to outrank Susie—the supervisor who hired him—as Susie had a year where she worked part-time. It’s an arguable technicality. Susie feels Joe may be the best hire she ever made, with no comment or thought about the need to debate the tenure question. Joe just has it wrong!

Over the years, Susie and Joe have had much interaction with two members of the Club’s culinary staff. If you ever have clam chowder at Egypt Valley—a Club favorite signature dish—you are experiencing the art of Francois Jayen at work. Among Francois’ many and varied food preparation duties is responsibility to ensure the clam chowder stock is attended to. The occasional absence of Francois’ chowder on a brunch or special buffet always brings negative critique from members and their guests. Francois studied the culinary arts in his home country of France and worked for Club Med before finding his way to Michigan and beginning his 21 years with Egypt Valley. You will never meet a nicer gentleman.

The other half of the long-tenured culinary dynamic duo at Egypt Valley is Greg Conder, now in his 20th year at the Club. On every great team are those players who can—and have—done it all. Over time, you could have found Greg driving menu service in the Trophy Room or Halfway House, manning the grill during an outdoor event, prepping a large banquet service meal for hundreds, or pitching in to help on the kitchen line with lunch or dinner service. Like a great shortstop in baseball who can field, hit and run the bases, Greg, too, does it all and does it well.

Just as you begin wondering how many long-tenured all-stars one Clubhouse staff could have, Egypt Valley is fortunate to boast yet another 22-year veteran. When you have a large facility with numerous moving mechanical pieces, you really need a leader gifted in a variety of skills. Dave Prevost brings that to the job every day. Of the many things this “can-do” leader does, perhaps his best attribute is that he always finds a way to solve the problem and get the job done. Dave is a key component for the team in keeping Egypt Valley running, day after day.

Unlike some companies, Egypt Valley never had a policy prohibiting various members of one family to be employed simultaneously, as long as no family member has supervisory duty over another. When Kevin Thielke came to Egypt Valley in 1996, it was just as a college summer job. At the time, he was thinking about pursuing a career as a Golf Professional. His dad worked on the grounds crew and suggested that working at Egypt Valley would be a good opportunity to get a different view of Club operations. Kevin returned as a full-time grounds crew member the following year. Like many others in the club business, a part-time summer job led Kevin into another career path. Under Jeff Holmes’ tutelage, Kevin progressed in various duties and eventually became superintendent for the Valley Course—a responsibility he has held for the past 12 years. Kevin credits Jeff as being an amazing mentor and the closest thing he has to a second Dad.

It’s appropriate that we saved Jeff Holmes, Golf Course Manager, as the last of our 20-plus-year professionals to be recognized. A good course superintendent takes the attitude that the property is an asset that is his duty to care for and preserve. When Jeff accepted the challenge of maintaining Egypt Valley’s dual-championship courses, he had many obstacles to overcome and problems to solve. Over the past quarter of a century, he has earned the credit for elevating Egypt Valley’s course conditions to the high standard today’s members and their guests experience and enjoy. Egypt Valley is known far and wide, not only for it’s challenging championship design, but for the high level of playing conditions Jeff’s team brings every day, in all kinds of weather.

Perhaps Jeff’s crowning achievement is the leadership and mentoring he brings to his stewardship, every day. Kevin Thielke is only one of nearly 40 of Jeff’s protégés who went on to make golf course maintenance their life’s work. Kevin would be the first to say, “Working at Egypt Valley Country Club is not just a job.”

It’s an attitude all long-tenured Egypt Valley professionals demonstrate as they go about their daily duties.

It is one of the things that helps make Egypt Valley Country Club a very special place.

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