Winged Foot Wonder: The Inspirational Story of Katie Wiedmar, PGA
By Lisa Goulian-Twiste
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2023 issue of PGA Magazine
Katie Wiedmar has loved sports for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, she played team sports like basketball and field hockey, but it was golf and its focus on the individual athlete that won her heart and has become not only a career but a lifelong passion.
“I started in a little girl’s golf league at age 6, where we played a couple of holes at different courses around Louisville, and I fell in love with it,” says Wiedmar, PGA Assistant Professional/Golf Shop Manager at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, and the 2023 PGA Merchandiser of the Year for private facilities. “In the team sports, the success or failure of a competition could be for a myriad of reasons, but I liked that in golf it all fell on me.”
Developing her skills on public courses and in various leagues around Louisville, Wiedmar went on to play for the high school golf team before being recruited to play at Eastern Kentucky University, where she also enrolled in the school’s PGA Golf Management University Program. As part of the curriculum, she completed four internships – the first three in Louisville, and the final at Winged Foot, one of the East Coast’s premier private facilities with a storied history that includes hosting six U.S. Opens and the 1997 PGA Championship.
During seven months at Winged Foot in 2012, she earned her last three credits toward graduation before spending the winter working at the exclusive Indian Creek Country Club in North Miami Beach, Florida. Then came a call in the spring of 2013 that would set the course for Wiedmar’s first decade as a PGA Professional.
“Winged Foot offered me a job as a full-time staff member in charge of buying women’s apparel, but it also included giving lessons, playing with members, assisting with tournaments and working with other departments,” she says. “It’s not that I’m being asked to cut the grass at 4:30 in the morning, but there were times I picked up branches after a big storm. I love that it changes every day.”
A few years after Wiedmar arrived back at Winged Foot, PGA Golf Shop Manager Grant Sturgeon left to become the PGA Head Professional at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. She took over his role and the shop went from doing $3.15 million in 2016 to $4.3 million last year – a jump she attributes primarily to product assortment.
“Being here for 10 years, I see the trends; I know my customers,” she says. “We’re a conservative club, so there’s nothing bright and flashy. Summit Golf Brands, Holderness & Bourne, Peter Millar and Greyson are our big hitters. I try to hit several price points because for many guests, it’s their first and only time playing Winged Foot, and I want them to have a variety to choose from.”
Winged Foot has also benefited from a complete renovation of the golf shop in 2018, where the space was increased by 800 square feet when the bag room was moved to a different location. There are portable fixtures that are constantly being rotated to make the shop look interesting and fresh, and the welcoming atmosphere includes background music and a staff that’s friendly and approachable – which is vital when a course has as much guest traffic as Winged Foot.
“We have a corporate or charity outing every Monday from May to October, which generates many sales,” she says. “A lot of guests come in those days, so it’s important we have a wide variety of product – not only apparel, but glassware, backpacks, insulated drinkware, dartboards, basketball hoops, bottle openers and other items you won’t find at the course next door. People love our logo and love Winged Foot, so they’ll bring home anything they can.”
The shop has also veered more toward a lifestyle feel in recent years, especially as the pandemic has changed members’ work lives and habits. Nesting tables with a vendor’s collection of neatly folded shirts, pants, vests, sweaters and a few styles of button-down wovens have given way to more casual displays that include T-shirts, five-pocket pants, joggers and the most recent craze – cashmere hoodies from Greyson, Ralph Lauren and Johnstons of Elgin, a very high-end Scottish brand.
“Obviously, we still have rules players have to abide by when coming to Winged Foot, but certain things have become more relaxed,” she says. “We sell five-pocket men’s pants in the shop, and now I see guys playing and going to dinner in them, whereas in past years they weren’t allowed because they looked too much like jeans. And whereas 10 years ago, you wouldn’t be allowed to wear a hoody playing golf, it’s gotten more lenient, which I like. If people feel more comfortable wearing what they like, they’re going to be more apt to play.”
Wiedmar says winning the PGA Merchandiser of Year Award fulfilled a huge goal, and she gives a lot of credit to PGA Head Professional Mike Gilmore, saying, “He gives me and rest of staff autonomy to do our jobs. He doesn’t micromanage but lets us run with it, allowing us to buy what we know will sell. When someone puts so much trust in you, it makes you feel good, and it gives you more confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.”
According to Wiedmar, there are days at Winged Foot that “feel like Disney World,” where the shop is filled with members and guests – some picking up a couple of sleeves of balls, others buying several hundred dollars worth of merchandise. All staff members have to be on their toes, working together to make the shop experience second to none.
“I don’t do $4.3 million worth of business by myself; it’s an award for all of us. It’s a non-stop place, and we have a staff that works hard and all gets along.”
Katie Wiedmar, PGA