A Meet-a-Mom Interview with a PGA Golf Pro — Gena Dells
Throughout the past decade, Gena Dells has taken the Southern California golf community by storm. Her trailblazing career — with a position at an established Carlsbad golf club — speaks to her childhood dedication to golf. A North County native, we’re delighted Gena agreed to share a bit about her career and her family while giving us her take on…
The good and the great in North County San Diego!
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
I have a son named Cassidy who just turned 4 in December.
Which area of North County do you call home? How long have you lived here?
I live in Vista, currently. I grew up here and have been back in the Oceanside, Vista and Carlsbad areas now for about six years.
What do you love about living in North County?
I love everything about living here! The people are amazing, and the overall vibe of places to go and explore is the best part of living here.
What’s your favorite part of North County? Tell us why and include your favorite mom-and-child activity or place to visit.
We have recently discovered Legoland! It’s awesome for my kiddo’s age. We love hanging out at the golf course a lot, too.
What’s your favorite restaurant in North County? Tell us about your favorite item on the menu and why you love it.
That’s a super tough question because there are so many great places! My son loves Mexican food so our main go-to is Anita’s on Coast Highway, but recently they cut their hours so it’s been hard to hit. My favorite food there are the cheese enchiladas [YUUUMMM]! Our other go-to spot is Pizza Port in Bressi Ranch! They have fun video games; everyone is nice there; and the pizza is delicious!
Tell us about your career as the GM at Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club. Describe your ground-breaking position in the world of golf and how it sets you apart from your peers here in SoCal and beyond!
I’ve been the GM here at Rancho for almost six years now. I love everything about this property! It’s one of the hidden gems in Carlsbad that somehow a lot of people still don’t know about. I have had a blast since coming on board while getting a lot of fun improvements going and creating an entertaining place for kids and adults to learn the game. It’s a place that even seasoned golfers get enjoyment from! We have a great food truck and host birthday parties with footgolf, too!
The property was really outdated when I started. I’ve been part of rebranding and enhancing the club features. As a PGA golf professional for about 16 years, I love innovation in the golf industry. So, I like trying new things to get more people playing while creating a relaxed atmosphere. My focus on making our patrons’ golf outing a relaxed one is what I believe sets me apart from my peers. SoCal is the ideal destination for vacation, travel and golf, so I’m delighted to be a part of the golf scene in Carlsbad!
Being a woman in this, largely male, industry definitely has its challenges. But it also allows me to try new things. As a female pro on the business end of this sport — here in this coveted SoCal golf destination — I realize I am already innovating and part of the forefront of change. So, if I’m successful in emphasizing the fun about golf — and not the intimidating — I feel I’m off to a good start in changing perceptions and growing our community access!
How many employees do you manage and what’s your style of leadership?
I manage 17 employees. I have always tried to lead by example, meaning that there is no job that anyone on my staff — including myself — won’t do to make the property, and our workplace, the best it can be.
How did you begin playing golf?
I started playing golf with my mom and grandmother. My father didn’t play and thought it was “too slow” [haha]. I had a blast going out with my mom and grandma to bond, play and just laugh the day away.
What do you love about your job?
I always joke that I have a “really tough office!” I mean c’mon, I get to go to a golf course everyday where the scenery is amazing and the people that visit and play are genuinely great people, just looking to enjoy their day. Every golf course I have worked at, I find myself stopping to just look around every now and then. I pinch myself, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. I am constantly trying to think of ways I can I improve course conditions and the overall feel of the course — which makes it never a dull moment. I love it all!
Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us about them!
I would say my hobbies have become trying to find something fun for my son and me to do whether it be just hitting up the beach or traveling to new places.
What are your tips for parents when choosing golf lessons for their kids?
Keep it FUN! No junior is getting on the PGA tour at nine! Yet, I see a lot of pressure still to be super competitive. I love the instructors I have brought on board, because they help each junior have fun while improving their all-around game. This is a lifelong sport! I encourage parents not to burn their children out early on, because no matter what profession our young players choose down the road, knowing how to play golf brings old and new friends together — letting them build and enhance lifelong work relationships, too.
My boys play tennis. I got them started in clinics and privates as toddlers, around age four, but I held off putting them in tournaments until around age ten. I felt the competition might be a lot to handle in their younger years.
In your opinion, what’s the best age for kids to begin playing golf?
My son, Cassidy, just started mini golfers and he is four. Does he look like a pro yet? Nope! [haha] But he is having fun learning how to just hit the ball and meet new friends while playing games. We actually use tennis balls for them to hit at this age. I would say from my teaching experience, six is a great age to get started!
What are your thoughts about how kids deal with competition at younger ages? And what’s the best age for kids to begin competing and playing tournaments?
I think it just all depends on the kid, honestly. If they express interest in wanting to play tournaments, then it’s probably a good time to get them started. Let them try and build from there with positive feedback. Golf is tough, but with each tournament you will see them shine.
What life lessons do you think golf teaches kids?
Honestly, it’s so many things! But, at the top of my list is patience, sportsmanship, integrity and manners.
How do you juggle work and motherhood?
I have a huge support system that includes my mom and incredible family and friends. Each one of them is super helpful! They make sure Cassidy is around positive influences at all times.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
Enjoy every moment because time really does fly! The first year I was so tired from juggling everything. I realized I had to flip my focus to make sure we were soaking up every possible moment together that we could (Cassidy and I). He is just growing like a weed, so I am working on soaking up every moment.
How can our North County moms find out more about golf lessons for their kids at Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club?
I’m happy to say that we have many programs going on for kids of all ages to join. I would suggest interested families check out our Facebook page, Instagram or website: ranchocarlsbadgolf.com
Maria Felicia Kelley interviewed Gena Dells for the inaugural rollout of
The North County Moms Meet-a-Mom interview series!