My Winthrop Experience

Name: Jay Karen
Residence: Charleston, South Carolina
Degree: History
Occupation: CEO, National Golf Course Owners Association

Jay Karen loves golf.

"I love the personal test that comes with every shot. Can I hit this ball straight? Can I lob it over the sand trap and on to the right spot of the green? Can I read this green correctly for speed and turns?"

For Karen, golf isn't now just a hobby but also a vocation. The 1996 graduate has taken a job as chief executive officer of the National Golf Course Owners Association based on Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina. He had previously worked for the association from 1997 to 2007 as director of partner relations and membership.

The association represents more than 3,000 member golf course owners and operators worldwide. He plans to strengthen chapter relations, expand member services, modernize online curriculum and other educational resources, and amplify legislative advocacy.

The association's role is to educate its members on how to operate successful golf courses. They also work quite closely with organizations like the PGA of America, to stimulate more play among kids and adults through different programs, such as PGA Junior Golf League and Get Golf Ready.

Before joining the association, Karen worked as chief executive officer for both Select Registry, a collection of more than 300 fine inns, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels, and for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

He stresses that golf is a great connector and equalizer. "For four hours, it doesn't matter what a person's position is in society or what their politics may be. We are all having a great time trying to hit this little white ball into a 4.25-inch cup," he said. "Not many other activities bring strangers together quite like a foursome on the course."

Playing golf was a bonding event for Karen. "My dad played every Sunday morning with his buddies, and starting around age 10, I got to play if one of the guys couldn't make it," he said. "All my golf lessons as a kid were from dad and his golf buddies."

Karen values his Winthrop education because as a true liberal arts education, it has helped him see complex issues in commensurately complex ways. "Being an effective leader requires me to draw upon history, psychology, economics, writing and more. Also, all of the organizations in which I was involved at Winthrop gave me the perfect practice and training to be an association executive," said Karen.

He worked in an executive office in Tillman Hall, as a resident assistant and for campus dining services.

He also served on Winthrop's Board of Trustees when he was Student Government Association (now Council of Student Leaders) president in 1994-95. "The experience allowed me to better understand the nuances and complexities of leadership, stakeholders, mission, methods, etc.," Karen said.

He was selected as the 2017 recipient of the Alumni Professional Achievement Award, which recognizes significant contributions alumni have made to their fields while exemplifying high moral and professional ethics.

Last Updated by JL: 11/16/2017