A serious golfing pedigree is an obvious prerequisite for any new Golf Professional, but what about someone who has 1) governed a municipality 2) mentored and instructed groups to unify as a successful team and 3) deeply appreciates throwing a knuckleball vs. a fastball?
Mike Miller, Big Canoe’s new head golf professional, is all that and more. Since his first day of work on June 1, he has made a mark with his unusually varied background and mix of management skills honed in the golfing world – and as the current mayor of Flowery Branch, the Hall County town east of Lake Lanier.
Mike fielded a few questions about himself, describing how he’s gone from governing a city to working with the Big Canoe community.
Name: Mike Miller
Title: Head Golf Professional
Most recent golf work experience: Assistant golf pro at St Marlo Country Club in Duluth for the past nine months; head golf pro at Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course in Buford for three years.
Other experience: Mayor of Flowery Branch, November 2009 through Dec. 31, 2021.
How can you be a mayor and our golf pro at the same time? The daily operations of Flowery Branch are handled by the City Manager, who is a full-time employee, and the mayoral position is a part-time job with a $6,000 a year salary. “The mayor’s job is a labor of love,” Miller said, “and you must supplement that with a full-time position.”
Additional work experience: Music teacher for 13 years. “As part of my duties, I taught everything from elementary general music to high school marching band.”
What’s your instrument? trombone
Family: wife Diane, an assistant principal at a middle school; sons David, 14, and Tanner, 13
What attracted you to Big Canoe? “The first thing was the beauty of the place and the second was the active golf community,” he said. “There are so many golfers here. As a golf professional, it’s so nice to have golfers who appreciate and love the game as you do.”
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in coming into Big Canoe? “It’s an opportunity to grow with the renovations on the Creek 9 and the excitement that’s building toward getting a fresh golf course reopened for Property Owners to enjoy.”
What’s your goal here? “For the golf operations: to bring a Chick-fil-A customer-service mentality where everyone feels welcomed and greeted with a smile, whether that’s in-person or on the phone. When guests approach us, they need to feel the same kind of customer service as when walking into Chick-fil-A. When they’re getting back into their car, after you load their bag into the trunk, they need to experience that same level of service. That’s the easy stuff. That doesn’t cost anything. And if it doesn’t cost anything, we should be doing that 100 percent of the time.”
Favorite golfer: Arnold Palmer
What do you enjoy during the rare occasion you have downtime? Just seeing my kids participate in their activities, which are cross country or track with my younger son Tanner, who turned 13 on Saturday, or baseball games with my older son, David, who just turned 14 a week ago last Friday.
The closeness of his sons’ ages: “People say, ‘Wow, they’re a year apart. You know how that happens, right?’ And I always say, ‘Yes, by adoption.’ Tanner, our youngest one, was adopted.
It’s perfectly fine that everybody knows that. In sharing our story with folks, we hear about how lives have been affected by the foster system and adoption. People come up and tell me, ‘I read your son was adopted,’ or ‘I was adopted.’ It’s a unique thing that more people relate to than you really know.”
What artist from your playlists do you most often listen to? “Everything except for gangster rap. It would definitely be country. I used to live and teach in Newnan, Ga., so I love Alan Jackson. If I could come back in a second life, it would be Vince Gill. I love his voice and he is an amazing guitar player. And he’s a scratch golfer.”
How does being a trombone player fit into all this? “If you look at my playlists, there’s everything from musicals to symphonies to big band. I got pop and some Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and Billy Joel. It’s a little bit of everything. You’d probably find a little Justin Bieber on there.”
Hero or role model: “I have loved baseball all my life. I was never the fastest pitcher in the world. And the realist in me realized a pitcher needed something to make you successful. Growing up as a kid, I always wanted to throw a knuckleball. Come full circle: (Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher) Phil Niekro lived in Flowery Branch and through my mayor duties, I actually got to know him very well. I considered him a friend. When David’s baseball team did a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (N.Y.), I was standing in the room where the players’ plaques are and I was looking a Phil’s. At that exact moment, he called me on my cell phone to invite me to play in his charity golf tournament.”
What’s your idea of a perfect day: Playing some golf with my son David, because he’s dying to come up to our golf course and play here in Big Canoe. And then a nice dinner out with some Italian food and the whole family. Ending the evening at Truist Park watching the Braves beat the Nationals.