After 15 years as General Manager/COO of Congressional CC, Michael Leemhuis has moved to Ocean Reef Club to succeed Paul Astbury, who has retired. Congressional has named Jeffrey Kreafle as its new GM/COO; he will move from his current position at Bellerive CC to start at the Bethesda, Md., club April 1.
Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo, Fla., has named Michael Leemhuis, CCM, CCE, PGA, to be its new President. Leemhuis, who for the past 15 years had been General Manager/COO of Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., assumed his new position at Ocean Reef Club at the start of December, to formally complete the club’s transition of its top leadership upon the retirement of its long-time previous President, Paul Astbury.
Congressional CC has announced that its new General Manager/COO will be Jeffrey Kreafle, currently General Manager/COO of Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo. Kreafle, who writes a regular management column, “Yes…But How?” for Club & Resort Business, will assume his new duties at Congressional on April 1.
The move to Ocean Reef for Leemhuis comes after he led Congressional CC, one of the largest private clubs in the U.S., with approximately 3,000 members, through a period when more than $80 million in capital improvements and renovations were made to its golf courses, clubhouse and other facilities. The club also hosted the 2011 U.S. Open under Leemhuis’ direction.
Upon his resignation, the club’s President, Steven Durante, said, “Michael has represented Congressional Country Club in a fashion that has contributed significantly to the premier standing we enjoy worldwide.”
Leemhuis, a native of South Africa, first came to the U.S. to study at UCLA and then earned a Master’s Degree in Education, specializing in Sports Administration and Management, from East Carolina University. He then returned to South Africa and began his career in hospitality by serving as General Manager, Sport and Recreation, at the five-star Sun City Resort. He came back to the U.S. to become General Manager for the PGA Tour’s TPC Properties, before moving to Congressional in 1999.
In 2009, Leemhuis was elected President of the Club Managers Association of America, and he was named Club Manager of the Year by that organization in 2011.
At Ocean Reef Club, Leemhuis will direct a property that dates back to 1945, became a private club in 1993 and now has close to 4,000 members. The property now features two 18-hole championship golf courses, a tidal swimming lagoon and a marina as part of a full complement of recreational and social amenities.
Kreafle will succeed Leemhuis at Congressional after six years at Bellerive CC. During that time, he directed the club’s hosting of the 2013 Senior PGA Championship, which gave it the distinction of becoming only the third course to host all four men’s rotating major championships in the U.S. (the U.S. Open, the Senior U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship). Kreafle also led Bellerive’s successful application to host the 100th PGA Championship in 2018.
During the process of successfully securing the two major championships for Bellerive, PGA REACH was created in conjunction with The PGA of America. That program now serves as the model of philanthropic outreach for PGA Championship host sites and the PGA’s national foundation. In St. Louis, the program supports organizations that include the Boys & Girls Club, Urban K-Life, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters that work directly with the city’s public school system, to encourage students to reach their full potential.
The move to Congressional takes Kreafle back to Maryland, his home state. After spending several years with the Baltimore Orioles’ public relations department, he entered the golf world with America Golf Corporation (AGC).
After several promotions at AGC, he managed one of the firm’s properties, Marbella Golf & Country Club in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and was a key participant in implementing national initiatives on over 300 courses.
After leaving AGC, Kreafle managed Wayzata Country Club in Minneapolis, Minn. before moving to Bellerive.
“While I am certainly saddened to leave the members and team members at Bellerive after six great years, I am excited and honored to be given the opportunity to join the team at Congressional and to be entrusted with carrying on the traditions of such a storied club,” Kreafle said.
While Kreafle will now not be at Bellerive for the 2018 PGA, it is certainly likely that there will be opportunities to help direct other major championships at Congressional, which received encouragement after hosting the 2011 U.S. Open that it might be in line for the honor of having that tournament return as part of America’s 250th birthday celebration in 2026.