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February 2020

Small Operator Gives Black Eye To The Industry

By Steve Eubanks

It should go without saying, but crime never pays. And in golf – a cottage industry that has outgrown the cottage but is still hesitant to remodel – the stain of criminal behavior tends to spread, often blemishing the innocent along with the guilty. 

In December, a Massachusetts grand jury indicted Kevin Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Golf Management, with three counts of theft, four counts of wire fraud, eight counts of money laundering and four counts of filing a false tax return – all stemming from what the state alleges was Kennedy’s pilfering green fees and cart revenues from the city of Springfield.

The alleged scam was simple: Kennedy would either not ring in green and cart fees or he would code the transactions differently. Supposedly this happened on both of the city of Springfield’s courses – Fanconcia Golf Course and Veterans Memorial Golf Course – over a period of seven years from 2010 through 2016. Kennedy is alleged to have traveled lavishly and built two homes with the proceeds, which caught the attention of state and federal tax agents who realized that the golf pro’s means didn’t match his lifestyle.

As idiotic as these kinds of situations appear, they are far too common, not on as grand a scale as Kennedy’s alleged crimes, but when an assistant pro making far less than a FedEx driver shows up in a BMW, red flags should fly throughout the industry. 

But for every bad apple, there are a hundred quality operators who will do right by any municipality that hires them. That provides a target-rich opportunity for those willing to put themselves under a microscope.

The best way for a small management firm to build business is to show an owner or municipality a foolproof plan for minimizing internal theft. There are plenty of cloud and tablet based systems for capturing revenue. Most make it very difficult for the average behind-the-counter employee to steal. There are also independent auditing services that will verify the books on a regular basis for a nominal fee.

Golf is a game of integrity, a sport that relies on self-policing. The industry should do likewise. Earning opportunities abound for those operators who can go before a board or a city council with a simple message and plan: “I will never steal from you, and here’s how you can be sure of it.”

 

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