For those familiarwith Ron Jaworski’s exuberant, wonkish analysis on ESPN’s NFL programming, it is easy to imagine his having been an insatiable game-film connoisseur in his playing days. Yet the quarterback spent his in-season off days more concerned with par 3s than third downs, his 18-hole escapes as important to his recovery as his time in the trainer’s room.
“I was away from the media, away from fans, away from talking about the game,” Jaworski says of his golf outings. “It was where I would recharge my batteries.”
The man known as Jaws explains this while seated in a conference room at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor City, N.J.
Embroidered on his orange polo shirt are the words “Ron Jaworski Golf.” Both wardrobe and setting are reminders that Jaworski’s former refuge from work nowis his work. With six courses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (including Blue Heron Pines), Jaworski has employed the doggedness and eye for detail that characterize his TV scouting to turn a favorite hobby into three-plus decades of business success.
“It’s like he’s still a quarterback reading the field,” says Ken Kochenour, Jaworski’s partner on five of his courses. “He sees stuff other people don’t see.” Sometimes that means adding an alternate tee, or trimming trees to open up the fairway, in the service of playability. That’s one of Jaworski’s central tenets, along with affordability (his courses charge less than $100 per round, even during weekend peaks), atmosphere (each features a sports bar), and a quick pace of play (which his rangers are not reluctant to enforce).
Other times it means spotting savings opportunities.
Ron Jaworski Golf relies on economy of scale, purchasing everything from fertilizer to clubhouse food in bulk to be split among locations. This spring, after his purchase of Downingtown (Pa.) Country Club, Jaworski mobilized employees from his other courses to redo its shoddy sand traps. What would have cost upwards of $110,000 through a contractor was done for $18,000.
“It’s like he’s still a quarterback reading the field. He sees stuff [on his golf courses] other people don’t see.”—Ken Kochenour
In golf, “your margins are tight and it can be thankless,” says Charlie Clarke, superintendent at Blue Heron Pines and a longtime Jaworski employee. But Jaworski says each of his courses pulls in six-figure annual profits. “I have never lost money on a golf course,” he says, knocking on the wooden table. “I say that proudly because I know a lot of people can’t.”
Jaworski’s love of the links dates to his childhood in Lackawanna, N.Y.
The son of a worker at a local Bethlehem Steel mill, Jaws was no country-club kid. But around age 9, he and his friends began sneaking onto the grounds of a public nine-hole course near their grade school to play scofflaw rounds, and Jaworski was smitten.
At 22, in 1973, Jaworski bought his first set of real clubs. By then he was a hotshot second-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams, and he put those Wilson Staffs to frequent use. But he was painfully aware of how short an NFL career could be. “I was scared to death of the future,” he says. In 1977 he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he found stability on and off the field. Coach Dick Vermeil installed Jaworski as starting quarterback. And in ’79, the off-season before he led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl, Jaworski and a teammate took over operations at a nearby golf course. An experience he enjoyed enough to begin envisioning his second career.
Pictures: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
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