At Country Club of Asheville, Debbie Ponder has seen it all.
To say she’s a country club regular is a huge understatement. After all, Debbie Ponder has been working at Country Club of Asheville for nearly 37 years.
Ponder, who was hired straight out of college to handle front office duties and book private functions, now serves as the club’s membership and marketing director, a role that’s constantly evolving.
“In the 1980s, the club didn’t advertise,” she recalls. “Members brought in new members. But when corporations no longer offered memberships to their executives, that’s where the challenges came in and we ramped up our marketing efforts.”
In her tenure, she’s also seen changes in the role the club plays in members’ lives.
“It used to be all about the men. The wives and children weren’t as involved. Now we have a one-stop shop. The whole family is active beyond just the guys getting together.”
And it’s not a hard sell at Asheville, either. Since McConnell Golf took ownership in 2015, the property has undergone top-to-bottom renovations, including a recent golf course reconstruction.
“Since McConnell took over, I now have something truly enticing to sell,” says Ponder. “When I’m taking folks on a tour, they see our upgraded clubhouse and locker rooms. They see the renovated course. And when they find out they have access to 12 other private clubs? The value of this membership goes way, way up.”
In all her time at Asheville, one thing remains constant: “The members are an extension of my own family,” says Ponder. “I’ve known many of them for a long, long time. They’ve seen me come into this job straight out of college. They’ve seen me get married, have children. Their support is overwhelming.”
While Ponder has seen the club change in countless ways during her three-plus decades there, the atmosphere at Asheville now couldn’t be better.
“The new course is busy, and everyone is trying to find their game,” she says. “There’s a new energy and excitement here. Potential members are thrilled. I can say without a doubt that I love my job. I’m in the happy zone all day.”
And that’s a good place to be.