In recognition of leadership and long-term service to golf in the region, Damon DeVito has been named the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Golf Leader by NGCOA Mid-Atlantic. DeVito is Managing Director Affinity Management, based in Charlottesville, VA.
While pursuing his MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Damon set out to go into business for himself and realized that golf facilities are one of few, highly fragmented markets in America. With testing, he quickly realized he was able to make a difference in the industry.
One example was his role prior to forming Affinity Management when DeVito was the Membership Director and Director of Real Estate at Keswick Club and Estate. Damon spearheaded member recruitment efforts which led the club from 38 members in 1994 to over 325 in 1997. During that span, Keswick was the only private club in the market to experience growth in non-real estate-oriented membership recruitment.
Customer experience is high up on his list of priorities. Damon likes to follow three key metrics when trying to create change and growth and move the cash flow needle. Driving golf metrics, (green fees/cart fees or membership dues), group business, and non-business golf. Any facility may have all three, or just one, but focusing on these key metrics is instrumental to success.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Damon helped develop a unique partnership with Rhoback, an activewear clothing company based out of Charlottesville, VA to distribute Rhoback’s unity themed mask, with a flag and a logo, with the idea to bring people together during the dark times of the pandemic. An order was placed to produce 250,000 masks, with the intent to fulfill orders throughout the year as they were purchased. However, the national media got wind of the story and the masks were sold out in just three hours. This is when things got interesting. With the pandemic preventing Rhoback from staffing up fulfillment in their warehouse the need to ship the masks in a timely fashion looked impossible until Rhoback joined forces with The Club at Glenmore where waiters set up a makeshift shipping operation in the ballroom. This was a win-win for both, as Rhoback was able to fulfill their order more quickly and the staff at Glenmore was able to continue working and bring home a paycheck during a time that the club was unable to have large gatherings and host events due to mandates. George Bush later resurrected the memory when he wore a Rhoback mask to the Biden inauguration.
Damon has a passion for growing the game of golf, particularly providing the opportunity for children from lower-income situations to become involved in the sport. He expressed, “It is imperative that someone excites kids to give golf a chance.” A program developed at Affinity does exactly this. They work with local social groups like the Boys & Girls Club and Girls Inc. to share resources and get kids involved at the country club level. This includes supplying clubs, bags, shoes, attire, and transportation to and from the facility. These programs are supplemented by fundraising tournaments and auctions, often featuring local and national celebrities and sports figures.
For Damon, the recognition is humbling and greatly appreciated. He credits his team and supporting organizations on the success and is honored to be part of the group that has won the award in the past. “The way to survive and thrive last year was to pull together. I have never been prouder than what was done by the NGCOA with communication and adaptation.”