PGA of Ontario Profile: Rich Morel


Rich Morel on the cutting edge as PGA of Ontario Retailer of the Year

If you would like to visualize success you need to drop by Rich Morel’s golf shop at Deer Ridge Golf Club, but there’s more to the story than what meets the eye.

After finishing runner-up for the PGA of Ontario Retailer of the Year award in 2013 in his first season at Head Professional at Deer Ridge Morel earned top-marks in 2015 as the association’s Retailer of the Year.

When the 30-year-old arrived at the private club in Kitchener that caters to just 400 members, the club’s general manager and president told him not to count on building sales and increasing profit in the golf shop, but Morel had different ideas.

“When the GM and president said there’s no way we could increase the profitability in the Golf Shop, they inspired me to turn it around. I’m extremely competitive by nature - that little spark is all it took. “I believe when you develop a great team anything is achievable,” says Morel, who has watched sales soar 75 per cent over the past three years while more than doubling profit annually.

Morel, who started playing golf in his hometown of Cobourg in Grade 7 when he was challenged to a game by his buddy, thinks outside the small box that is his 675 square foot golf shop, but uses every square inch of it to give Deer Ridge members and their guests what they want. Last summer, he hired Rachel Voisin right out of Conestoga College’s Visual Merchandising program and she played a key role as Deer Ridge won the PGA of Ontario Retailer of the Year award for 2015. She’s headed to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida in March to start her dream job as a visual merchandiser and Morel is in search of a new recruit.

“My strength is the business side of the golf shop. I then focus on training our team and let them run the day to day operations. They’re involved in the decision making process of the golf shop which creates a sense of ownership for everyone,” Morel says. “I like to hire PGA of Ontario members where I can for the golf shop, but in this area I think it’s helpful to go to someone who has a fresh set of eyes and is educated in visual merchandising.”

The No. 1 selling apparel line at Deer Ridge shop in 2015 was Travis Mathew followed by a lifestyle line you may not even have heard before – 34 Heritage. “Our members are looking for apparel options that they can wear to work, on course and then out for dinner or to the cottage. Our sales of jeans, hoodies and t-shirts over the last couple of years have been growing steadily. You only need so many golf shirts, so we’re working hard to provide members with alternative choices,” says Morel who owns the golf shop. 

In 2015, Deer Ridge was also the only golf shop in Canada to receive an Association of Golf Merchandisers Platinum Award recognizing the Top 100 Golf Shops worldwide. The club launched an industry leading digital corporate catalogue in 2015 to market the idea guide to the 200 business leaders and senior executives who are members at the club. “They’re buying everything from coffee mugs and pens with their logos on them and probably never thought of going through the golf shop for their merchandising, so now we’re a great option and it is paying dividends. He even has buying programs with the three local universities, Guelph, Waterloo and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as well as other local businesses.

Prior to arriving at Deer Ridge in the spring of 2013, Morel worked for seven years at Coppinwood GC and Angus Glen GC learning from GM and former PGA of Ontario member Kevin Thistle – the focus was on customer service. “Kevin tells a story of being at Angus Glen and hosting a tournament for NHL great Rick Nash. Rick gives Kevin a call and says he needs 288 flat screens for the tournament. Kevin replies, “We’re a pro shop, of course we can sell you TV’s.” Kevin came through and as long as treat people well, provide competitive pricing and great service, they’ll call you for everything,” They’re words to live by, and Morel, who is getting married in June to Beth MacMillan, who he first met seven years ago at Angus Glen, has learned to do the same thing.

Morel also recognized that many members and their guests don’t spend a lot of time, walking through the golf shop due to its poor location, so he takes the business to them through “Tent Sales” in the cart staging area and on the first tee. Improved communications through a new digital newsletter with a pro shop specific feature, targeted e-blasts to promote sales and new products and four communications televisions within the clubhouse, have all contributed to increased sales.

Morel is quick to point out that any success and profit that the golf shop has enjoyed over the last three years could not have been achieved without an exceptional staff including team members; Alex Matsias, Jace Werry, Evan Kilimnik, Aaron Jenkins, Adam Beange and Rachel Voisin, as well as, James Skrypec, Director of Instruction. He is also thankful for the support he receives from his fiancée who is equally as driven and also supportive of his career aspirations while understanding the hours demanded of him at the club.

“It’s my belief that you can build anything with great staff. We find great people, provide good training and create an atmosphere that everyone loves walking into every day,” says Morel, who looks to inspire them to greatness. “We hope to provide them a great foundation of knowledge for two or three years, maybe a little longer and hopefully we can help them with their career progression.”

Story by Brent Long – PGA of Ontario contributor
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