Jan Bel Jan is a lead golf course architect for Tom Fazio Course Architecture in Jupiter, Florida, and has been with the company for more than twenty years. She helped create such Florida courses as Gateway Golf Club in Fort Meyers; Pelican’s Nest in Bonita Springs; Windstar on Naples Bay; the Champions Club at Summerfield in Stuart; and the Bayou Club in Key Largo.
After college, I was working in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a sales representative and technician in the lawn care division of the Davey Tree Expert Company with a degree in landscape architecture and a background as an assistant golf course superintendent. My job included corporate mass marketing and direct sales, as well as driving a split-shift, 1,200-gallon tanker truck to the sites of my sales and applying, from that tank, the prescribed fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide for the clients’ lawns. My assigned territory was the northeast side of the city, including Fox Chapel and Oakmont.
I had just finished the application on a business lawn in Fox Chapel, had reeled in the hose, and was already in my truck when the owner’s assistant hailed me.
“Jan,” he called out. “The owner would like to speak with you!”
I don’t remember the date, but that day, the world as I knew it changed.
It was Davey company policy to leave a business card at the site before departing so that clients knew the service had been completed. I saw the surprise on the face of the owner, Jack Mahaffey Jr. when I walked into his office. He had played many rounds of golf with two of my professional golfing uncles, Carl Bel Jan and Willie Bel Jan, and had played at their respective clubs in various amateur events. He had expected “Jan” to be a nephew, not a niece!
Mahaffey was a renowned western Pennsylvania amateur golfer and a longstanding member at famed Oakmont Country Club. In fact, when I visited with him that day, in the spring of 1978, he was the president of Oakmont and chairman of the 1978 PGA Championship, which was being staged at Oakmont later that summer. Mahaffey enjoyed winter golf as a member at the highly regarded Geroge Fazio/Tom Fazio-designed Jupiter Hills Club in Jupiter, Florida.
“What do you have in mind for the rest of your career?” Mahaffey asked me.
I told him of five opportunities I was weighing.
“Have you ever heard the name Fazio?” he asked me.
I had heard my father and uncles discuss golf since I was a toddler, so I told him I had heard the name.
“Well, I happen to know that Tom Fazio is looking for someone to work on the paper side of the design work,” said Mahaffey. “Would you like to meet him?”
My first interview with Tom Fazio was on the clubhouse porch, overlooking the double green at Oakmont Country Club, on the Friday of the 1978 PGA Championship. After a little conversation, Tom asked me to send a portfolio and resume to the Jupiter office for his review.
Several weeks later, I was on my very first airplane trip for a second interview.
When the interview ended, Fazio asked me, “How soon can you begin?”
I thought I knew then, but now I believe: so much of life is destiny.