How Bernie Friedrich, PGA, Took Michigan's Boyne Resorts — And His Own Career — To New Heights
By Don Jozwiak
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2023 issue of PGA Magazine.
When he became a PGA Member 40 years ago this past April, Bernie Friedrich’s career path was similar to many of his peers – working long hours in the golf shop, teaching lessons and helping golfers enjoy the game. Over the ensuing decades, most of them working for Michigan-based Boyne Resorts, Friedrich added the skills and experience needed to run a sprawling golf, ski and retail operation that spans 13 golf courses across three states.
In recent years, Friedrich’s position as Senior Vice President of Golf at Boyne Resorts put him in charge of semi-private clubs and resort facilities in Maine, Michigan and Montana during a time of tremendous growth, earning him honors as the 2023 PGA Golf Executive of the Year.
“Winning an award like this was certainly the farthest thing from my mind when I started my career as a PGA Professional,” says Friedrich, who was the inaugural recipient of the Michigan PGA Golf Executive of the Year Award in 2021. “I started out very old school, working dawn until dusk, and learned from my responsibilities. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of opportunities, and kept learning from them all.”
Friedrich’s career arc bent toward executive management when he went to work for the late Everett Kirchner at Boyne, overseeing what was at the time a portfolio of three golf courses across two Michigan properties known primarily as winter ski resorts. Over time, Friedrich’s responsibilities evolved to include, at various times, managing a retail operation with more than 40 locations’ overseeing all sales and call centers for golf, ski and resort business; being president of two private golf clubs within Boyne’s resort business; and helping run the company’s ski business across multiple locations.
As Boyne grew from a regional drive-in operation to a national collection of properties, Friedrich expanded his toolkit to provide whatever the company needed to keep growing. He also helped form a marketing consortium with other Northern Michigan resorts to help transform the area into an international destination.
“I’ve truly been blessed with outstanding opportunities with great staffs, and was given the freedom to develop myself along the way,” Friedrich says. “Everett Kircher was a major mentor, and there were a number of PGA Professionals who taught me along the way. Jim Flick played a big role for me, as did Tom Stewart and a number of others who took me under their wing.”
As Boyne added more golf courses over the years, Friedrich became a mentor to several PGA Professionals who would go on to long careers of their own – more than 35 of his former assistants have become PGA Head Professionals or executives.
That group includes PGA Professional Josh Richter, a longtime Friedrich protégé who is now taking over as Boyne’s new Senior VP of Golf.
“My management style is being a servant leader, where you invert the idea that the boss is on top and their ideas filter down to the rest of the team,” Friedrich says. “I see the goal of the executive as supplying the team what it needs to accomplish the company’s goals. I set the expectations, but they have the freedom to do the job and succeed.”
Friedrich was weighing retirement, but has decided to further expand his executive palette in a newly created position for Boyne: Director of Golf Course Renovation and Development. Working with architects and construction crews, his first projects will include renovations on two of Boyne’s existing courses, while also building three short courses across the company’s portfolio.
“After all these years, I’m still learning new things and finding new ways to improve the product as an executive,” Friedrich says. “I think we’ll see more PGA Professionals go in this direction, because the education you receive as a PGA of America Member lends you to being able to accomplish everything a facility needs in terms of managing experiences and expectations, plus communicating with all the people you need from customers to staff to ownership."