“Our students are blessed to have such leadership and mentorship right here in Vero Beach,” Scott Mohr said as his students at St. Edward’s were doing a case study of one of the more fascinating businesses to open around here in recent years.
“A pillar for our entrepreneurship class has been to work on real-time challenges for real-life businesses. Ideally we find a business that excites students, and we found a perfect partner with BigShots Golf.”
You can’t help but notice the BigShots Golf facility at 3456 U.S. 1 in Vero. It sits right next door to the Center for Advanced Eye Care. The two businesses are connected by more than just adjacent parking lots.
“It’s the culmination of a lifelong dream of always being around golf and having a driving range,” William Mallon, M.D., told us. “My dad and I played golf when I was a kid and I have been around golf my whole life. When I moved down to Florida I started playing golf year round and built my office right next to a driving range.
“That driving range was destroyed by the hurricanes of 2004.
“Over the years I would inquire periodically whether the land was for sale.”
Dr. Mallon kept a keen eye on the property next door to his office before he was finally able to make the purchase. Ultimately, it would be nearly 15 years until his initial inspiration would finally go to the drawing board, and then take root in reality.
Starting from the premise that golf courses were dying and there was a movement for ways to regenerate interest in golf that were more time-and family-friendly, a vision began to come into focus.
“I wanted to do a driving range, but I also wanted to look at all sorts of options for family entertainment. Looking for resources that might be able to assist me in doing that, I came across BigShots Golf on the Internet. The owner flew down from Peoria, Illinois, and said he thought it would work here. So I said ‘OK, let’s do it.’
“We went through the development, engineering and permitting processes, broke ground, and we were finished in September of last year. And to think that this came about largely by chance, it’s just kind of a dream come true that I could do something like this.”
So, to paraphrase an old adage, if it will play in Peoria, why not Vero Beach? The 30-tee-box, two-tier driving range is fully operational. If there is a wait for a tee box, a putting course is available. Upscale bar food is overseen by a chef. Gaming options add more entertainment to the mix.
The launch has been successful, judging by the crowds, especially on weekends. The extra parking at Advanced Eye Care has come in handy. Nevertheless, some rough edges have emerged.
Equipment breakdowns have impacted everything from drivers to televisions to computers. There is always a cost of doing business, and things to figure out.
Six months into the venture is where instructors Scott Mohr, Greg Zugrave and the future entrepreneurs from St. Ed’s stepped into the picture. The intent was to offer students a better understanding of the challenges all businesses confront, and to see if a similar enterprising spark might be ignited by whacking a few golf balls.
“We were tasked to creatively address issues like staffing, reservation management and advertising strategies,” Mohr explained. “Last year we were able to visit Vero Spin and I know that was an immensely impactful experience for our students.
“I’m not sure what will happen in the future with this BigShots relationship, but I would not be surprised if it leads to immediate summer jobs since the scale of this operation requires a lot of energy and effort. What a great opportunity for so many active students.”
This process was designed to be mutually beneficial. The practicum part of the course concluded when the St. Ed’s students presented their ideas to the management at BigShots.
Senior Kira Zudans said, “I have been pushed out of my comfort zone by learning new information about how businesses start, how they function, what their issues are, and how to fix them. This class has given me the opportunity to be involved in something that isn’t just basic math, science or English.”
Junior Josh Canevari added: “Working with these companies helps us understand entrepreneurship better than any textbook can. It allows us to build the skills required to start and run our own businesses. That is what I love about this opportunity.”