FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Kevin Lavertu knows the Eastern Seaboard as well as anyone. His youth, college and professional exploits have taken him from close to the top of it to darn near the bottom.
Growing up near Portland, Maine, he would later reside in the far southern reaches of this stretch of land at such exotic locations as Hilton Head, South Carolina and Tampa, Florida. Despite his time spent on the extremities, something keeps pulling this PGA Professional back to the middle - a place where he seemingly thrives the most.
"Going to college, getting my first job and having met my wife here, I would call North Carolina - specifically Fayetteville - home," said Lavertu, general manager of Gates Four Golf and Country Club established in 1967.
It's no coincidence, then, that he has ended up here since leaving New England at the age of 17. Fayetteville is located at about the halfway point of Interstate 95 as it races its way from New England to Florida and back. And being in the middle of something has always worked for Lavertu.
Over his career, the 33-year-old has built up a successful track record of turning around golf properties. He has managed semi-private, daily fee, resort, private clubs and country clubs. In all, Lavertu has been privy to seven golf course renovation or restoration projects.
His knack for getting into the mix of things started soon after arrived in Fayetteville as a wide-eyed wonder. Lavertu attended Methodist University in Fayetteville and spent three of his developmental PGA apprentice years there working on a project that saw a nine-hole layout expanded to 18.
"I was very hands-on in the process," he said. "I felt if I was to be successful, I needed to know what was happening out on the golf course."
After graduation in 2001 - he received a B.S. Degree in Business Administration and a B.S. in Marketing, along with a concentration in Professional Golf Management - Lavertu spent time at three area golf facilities in Fayetteville including Gates Four, Bayonet at Puppy Creek and Baywood.
In 2005, he was hired by ClubCorp and began his five-year (deep) Southern swing before moving back to Fayetteville for a reunion with the place that launched his successful career.
He continues his head-spinning routine at Gates Four - a club he has helped turn from a somewhat haggard private venue into a thriving semi-private one and the envy of his "hometown." Between engineering capital improvement projects to overseeing day-to-day operations, Lavertu still manages to find ways to get his hands a little dirty from the rich Tar Heel soil. You might see him on top of a tractor or cutting fairways on the back of a mower. It's his way of keeping himself grounded.
"I learned a lot (from the PGA program) at Methodist. There's not a piece of equipment at the maintenance building I can't operate," said Lavertu. "Although I'm more focused now on growing revenue, every once in a while I'll go out and help lay sod or roll greens. I'm still very involved. It's an advantage to me knowing the business from behind the scenes and staying close to what is going on."
What has gone on since Lavertu has returned to the area in 2010 is significant. Despite the lull in the economy, the club owners have managed to infuse some $2 million in improvements including a total golf course renovation/restoration of the original Willard Byrd design by Kris Spence soon after Lavertu's arrival to this past winter when a new 3,600 square-foot golf pavilion, new tennis courts and a 10-acre recreation area (known as Rockfish Park) were created. All of this was done, by the way, with no assessments and keeping membership dues reasonable.
According to the general manager, the private ownership of the club by the Riddle family creates a dynamic work relationship. "It's unique here," he said, "I've worked in the corporate world where there are more levels, like vice presidents and regional managers, to deal with. Here we work right with the owners. They rely on me. They look to me for everything. It is a little more involved from that standpoint, but it is a big part of the reason why we've had such success."
And the planning doesn't stop with the recent additions. "The work is never really done," concluded Lavertu. "We still have a project list for ongoing improvements. Every day and every week requires something to continue moving Gates Four and the golf course forward.
"It's hard for me to sit back and spend the owner's money, but there are other components - like a fitness facility - to address. I don't think we are done yet."
Martin Armes, 919-608-7260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad King, 336-306-9219, email@example.com