In life, as in golf, sometimes you have to close your eyes, take a swing and hope things go in the right direction. For Jim Demick, his eyes-wide-shut moment came in 1997 when the 37-year-old former accountant took a job as executive director of the Florida State Golf Association.
“I thought I would do it for a couple years,” Demick said.
“I fell in love with the place,” Demick said.
No surprise there. Demick grew up in golf-loving family in Delray Beach and played in his first tournament when he was 6. He spent most of his teenage years at Delray Beach Golf Club working a variety of jobs while becoming an accomplished junior golfer.
Golf is in Demick’s DNA. The FSGA job proved to be a perfect fit for him and the association.
Those couple years became 23, and the FSGA flourished under his nearly quarter-century leadership. The FSGA’s annual enrollment has reached more than 290,000 golfers.
That’s more than any state golf association in the U.S., and it’s not close (next closest is 170,000). The FSGA runs more than 620 days of tournament golf – almost twice the number of days in a year – and offers wonderful playing opportunity for all amateurs, no matter the age or their gender. They also run the Florida-based qualifying events for the USGA’s national championships.
“The FSGA has grown exponentially over the years under Jim’s guidance, and it’s amazing we’ve become No. 1 with a relatively small staff,” said FSGA President Kevin Hammer, a former top junior golfer who lives at The Club at Quail Ridge in Boynton Beach.
“This has been a multi-year decision across multiple committees and past presidents. Jeff works well with the rest of the team. He has the respect of his peers in the industry as well as the team at FSGA headquarters.”
FSGA President Kevin Hammer
“Jim was loyal to the FSGA. He had a number of opportunities to work for other associations over the years, but we are fortunate he stayed with the FSGA and continued to build the organization.”
But Demick is ready to step aside at 60. Starting in 2021, the FSGA’s new executive director is Jeff Magaditsch, who served as assistant executive director the past two years. Demick will stay within the FSGA to work for the foundation.
Demick could have picked an easier year to go out on. The coronavirus pandemic shut down golf in Florida in the spring for six weeks, and the FSGA spent the rest of the year rearranging tournaments in an ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.
Somehow, someway, the FSGA got in almost all the tournaments, consolidating a few, which was a minor miracle considering how many times they had venues pull out on them at the last second. They ran their premier event, the State Amateur, in mid-December.
“It has been a tremendous challenge,” Demick said. “When we reopened, we were hoping a lot of things would open up, but they didn’t clear up like we thought.
“We stayed very conservative. And to my knowledge, we were very fortunate that we didn’t have one case of the flu transferred at one of our events.”
Demick said his family might move back to South Florida from Tampa. One of his immediate goals is to lower his handicap of 7 closer to scratch. At least when he’s on a golf course now, he won’t be carrying a phone and a walkie-talkie.
“I’m going to miss the people the most,” he said, “the head professionals, the superintendents, the volunteers, the players and our staff. These people love golf and you better love it, too. It’s a lot of fun putting on a competition.”
Fortunately for the FSGA, they knew Demick would leave and the 38-year-old Magaditsch has been groomed to be the replacement, with senior directors Darin Green and Aaron Skoviera part of the leadership team.
“I’m going to miss the people the most, The head professionals, the superintendents, the volunteers, the players and our staff. These people love golf and you better love it, too.”
No surprise there, either: Golf leaders are careful with their decisions, sometimes taking longer than it takes a blade of grass to grow.
“This has not been a quick decision,” Hammer said. “This has been a multi-year decision across multiple committees and past presidents. Jeff works well with the rest of the team. He has the respect of his peers in the industry as well as the team at FSGA headquarters.”
Magaditsch shares Demick’s local roots in golf. Magaditsch grew up in Apollo Beach, near Tampa, and spent most of his youth at Apollo Beach Golf Club.
Magaditsch has been with the FSGA since 2007, working primarily in tournament operations. He knew the best thing to do was try to become Demick’s shadow.
“Jim created a culture that’s second to none,” Magaditsch said. “He’s a very low-key type of manager. He lets people take ownership of their tournaments and their departments. He was hands-on when he needed to be. I’m sure if there’s a decision to be made, I’ll be able to lean on Jim.”
As much as the FSGA has made strides connecting with seniors and women, both Demick and Magaditsch say they can do a better job with juniors. They know it’s the future of the game.
“I want to expand the Florida Junior Tour and make it one of the premier junior tours in the game,” Magaditsch said. “I know there is the American Junior Golf Association, and they do a good job. But there are things we can do better, such as conduct rules seminars, help the juniors with travel and with scholarships.”
One of Demick’s parting gifts from the FSGA is a $10,000 annual college scholarship that will be given, in his name – James E. Demick – to a deserving junior golfer.
That’s putting your name to good use.
The FSGA has grown into the type of golf association that Florida, with its wonderful weather, and multitude of top-tier courses and savvy golfers deserves.
Almost 300,000 golfers agree.