When people who make their living in golf talk about their starts in the game, the stories are often about the parents who put a club in their hands for the first time or the PGA professionals who gave them their first lessons.
But for Genifer Gray, chief operating officer of Global Topgolf Venues, the basis for her rather heady position in the sport comes largely from the times the Georgia native stood on a kitchen stool as a little girl while her grandmother prepared meals for her family and later watched her mom and aunts do the same thing. Gray also set the table and watch dishes afterward.
“I only have one brother,” Gray said. “But my mom was one of 10 kids and my dad one of six. So I had lots of cousins, and there was a pretty big group whenever we gathered for meals."
Hospitality always has been in her blood, she adds. And in many ways, those repasts – as well as the work Gray undertook later in life in restaurant and bars – fueled her interest in that industry and her rise from server to a COO of Topgolf, a division of Topgolf Callaway Brands that analyst Casey Alexander once described as “an imbedded growth engine,” so impressed was he with its financial performance.
Easygoing and engaging, Gray recently spoke with GGPBiz managing editor John Steinbreder about leaving the University of Georgia when she was 21 to start an eatery in Atlanta; her move when that enterprise failed to the restaurant company that then owned the On The Border and Maggiano’s chains; the successes by which she secured top executive positions with that concern before moving to Topgolf in April 2018; her love of cooking, traveling, music and college football; the reasons she considers a butterfly to be her spirit animal; and why she is grateful that she did not have to endure a “playing interview” when she was talking to Topgolf about a job there.
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