Golfweek honors Treetops’ Kevin McKinley as Father of the Year

Courtesy Kevin McKinley

Golfweek honors Treetops’ Kevin McKinley as Father of the Year

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Golfweek honors Treetops’ Kevin McKinley as Father of the Year

When Golfweek informed Kevin McKinley, director of golf and ski operations at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., that the magazine would like to recognize him as our 36th annual Father of the Year, he graciously thanked us for the honor. Then he had a request: Can I check my schedule?

You think you’re busy? Check out McKinley’s schedule. His job overseeing 81 holes of golf at a seasonal resort ensures his summers are jam-packed, and winters sometimes are even busier because he’s overseeing ski operations while preparing for the next golf season. At home, McKinley and his wife, Jill, are raising seven children.

McKinley, 44, also is president of the Michigan PGA, where he has an ambitious agenda, which sometimes requires him to make the six-hour roundtrip drive to section headquarters in Bath, Mich. If that weren’t enough, his commitment to supporting military veterans and families of fallen soldiers has mushroomed from an annual Patriot Day event to an almost-daily obsession.

“We try to get my schedule on paper, but it doesn’t always happen,” McKinley said. “(Jill) jokes around and says, ‘There’s real time and there’s Kevin time.’ She’s just in tune with Kevin time now.”

Awards aplenty for McKinley

We’re happy to report that McKinley was able to fit Golfweek’s Father of the Year award into “Kevin Time,” and he’ll be at Reunion Resort near Orlando on June 16 to receive the honor as part of the magazine’s annual Father-Son Tournament.

This awards thing is becoming old hat for McKinley, who last year received the Patriot Award from the PGA of America in recognition of his work on behalf of veterans and the military. McKinley traces this back to January 2007, when he heard Major Dan Rooney talk about the event that led him to form Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to the families of fallen soldiers.

“That story just grabbed me,” McKinley recalled.

Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot, talked about returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq and witnessing the remains of Cpl. Brock Bucklin being delivered to his family at the airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. The story resonated with McKinley, perhaps because he grew up in Muskegon, Mich., about an hour’s drive from the Bucklins’ home in Caledonia.

In retrospect, McKinley has come to recognize that moment as a “divine appointment.”

“I believe that every single day that I wake up, God puts people or situations in front of you, and it’s up to you whether you act on those or not,” he said.

McKinley decided to host a Labor Day weekend fundraiser to support Folds of Honor, and Brock’s parents, Duane and Dawn, accepted his invitation to visit Treetops for the event. They raised about $5,000 that first year. That was nice, but McKinley wanted to do more. He’s not a status-quo kind of guy.

“The more I got to know (the Bucklins), the more I got motivated,” McKinley said.

Bringing golf and veterans together

Treetops’ management threw its backing behind McKinley’s vision. A portion of every golf package sold online goes to Folds of Honor. But McKinley still wanted to do more. So he uses a portion of that money to bring veterans to the resort for the Labor Day fundraiser “to change their lives and make them know how much we appreciate them.” Last year 56 veterans attended.

Folds of Honor is a private, non-profit organization that raises money to fund educational scholarships for the families of deceased and disabled soldiers. (Folds of Honor)

Since 2007, McKinley and the resort have donated $318,185 to Folds of Honor.

But even that wasn’t enough for McKinley. He borrowed the PGA Junior League format and created a weekly summer golf league for veterans. They pay $50 up front and sponsorships cover their nominal green fees.

McKinley is quick to credit Treetops for embracing the cause.

“There’s just not a lot of facilities that would see a value in that,” he said. “We do it in the evening, but I have to block a significant portion of the daytime tee sheet to make that happen, and so that’s where Treetops comes in, in realizing the value of what it means to give and support causes.”

While McKinley finds the weekly interaction with the military personally fulfilling, he also sees value for his children.

“I would have had trouble conveying the importance of our military, the importance of the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom …” he said. “There are so many lessons that would be really hard to try to convey to the kids that are just evident when these folks that we’re helping come around.”

At home, McKinley said, “I’m not a perfect dad by any stretch of the imagination.” Jill is his second wife; they were married in 2012. He had four children from his first marriage, and she had three. Jill, he said, is understanding of his challenging work schedule, but family matters always take priority.

“She doesn’t let me sweep things under the rug,” he said. “If there’s an issue that we need to discuss, we make time to do that.”

‘Level 10’ meeting

In fact, he adopted a Treetops business practice for use with his family.

Last year, McKinley said, a consultant helped Treetops institute “Level 10” meetings. At the end of each meeting, participants grade the quality of the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10. McKinley found the exercise so productive that he decided to institute Level 10 meetings at home.

“On a biweekly basis all of us sit around the table and we have a Level 10 meeting, and I run it just like a meeting at work,” he said.

Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich. (Treetops Resort)

McKinley said the initial reaction from his children was, “Gosh, dad, this is the stupidest thing in the world.” But now, if McKinley’s travel schedule prevents him from holding a regularly scheduled meeting, his kids start clamoring for a sit-down.

(Pictured in the image above are (left to right): Kaylie McKinley, Andy McKinley, Lizzy McClure, Emma McKinley (front), Susann McKinley (back), Kevin McKinley, John McKinley, Jill McKinley and Andrew McClure.)

“Part of the meeting is called the issues list,” McKinley said. “Any kid in the house can put an issue on the issues list, and we talk about it as a family. … It forces you to hit these issues head-on. It has allowed us to open up a line of communications, and the kids know they can come to us and talk honestly to us.”

McKinley also has been shaking things up as president of the Michigan PGA. He recruited Boyne Resorts’ highly respected senior vice president, Bernie Friedrich, to oversee a committee devoted to creating more job opportunities for PGA professionals. And he’s put an emphasis on player-development, an initiative spearheaded by Stephanie Jennings, assistant pro at Meadowbrook Country Club.

“We’re trying to develop a program to get golf in schools, not just after-school programs,” McKinley said. “By the end of my tenure, we want to have penetrated several physical-education classes, and making sure that our PGA professionals in any area around the state have the blueprint and the funding to put a golf-in-schools program together in their area.” Gwk

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