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Richard ‘Sam’ Barlow
Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 5 years ago

Key Club's long-term staffers share highlights

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Richard ‘Sam’ Barlow
Title: Irrigation technician
First day: May 11, 1970, as one of three Arvida Corp. landscape workers
• Richard “Sam” Barlow is on the golf course most days by 5 a.m.

• He’s been showing up for work there every day since May 11, 1970 — back when the Islandside Golf Course was the Longboat Key Golf Club, and Harbourside wasn’t even a sketch on a developer’s pad.

• But, after 42 years around the golf course, Barlow has only played the game twice: Once he played the course with six balls and 154 strokes; the second time, he played nine holes in 93 strokes. “That’s absolutely lousy,” Barlow said. Although Barlow’s golf game isn’t up to par, he’s a pro when it comes to fixing anything and everything; he makes replacement parts for a complicated four-pipe system himself whenever they break because many are no longer available. In fact, his supervisor, John Reilly, director of agronomy at the Key Club, describes him as “a modern-day MacGyver.”

• Reilly enjoys watching people play on the golf course and has seen many of the resort’s prominent guests over the years.

• Although, usually he has seen celebrity visitors from a distance, he had one VIP encounter that he’ll always remember. “On the morning of Sept. 11, George Bush jogged right past while I was out here working on a sprinkler,” Barlow said. “He said, ‘Good morning,’ and I said, ‘Hello.’ I thought that was pretty cool.”

• With a 42-tenure at a 30-year-old resort, Barlow is the Key Club’s longest-serving employee. And two years ago, in honor of his 40th anniversary, he got something that showed his VIP status.

• The Key Club marked a service road in the maintenance area with a sign that reads “Barlow Boulevard.” “That’s something really neat,” Barlow said. “Someday I will leave, and when I do leave, I will take the sign with me.”

John Woods
Title: Director of tennis
First day: July 1976
• John Woods has held the same title since he was hired by the Longboat Key Club in July 1976: director of tennis. “I can’t get ahead,” he jokes.

• His title may not have changed, but the facilities that he oversees have transformed during his 36 years of service.

• Woods was working in the 1970s at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston, but after a long, rainy season, he began sending resumes out to facilities in California and Florida. He got hired by the Country Club of Sarasota, which he helped to open. But the opening got off to a slow start, so Woods took the Key Club up on the job offer it had made to him.

• When Woods got started, the Key Club was just beginning its tennis programs. It didn’t have membership. It was a semi-private club where the public could pay to play tennis and golf.

• The early days were slow. Woods oversaw the set-up of the pro shop and start up tennis programs; he made lots of phone calls to get people to check out the tennis facilities. “I loved the late ’70s and early ’80s,” Woods said. “We got a great number of members at the time, and (the Key Club) put a lot into allowing me to grow the tennis.”

• In recent years, the tennis facilities have seen new developments, such as the opening of the $4.2 million Tennis Gardens facility and hosting the Sarasota Open each spring. “We’ve gotten some really great players,” Woods said.

Ruth Rogers
Title: Lead accounts payable clerk
First day: July 11, 1980, with Arvida Corp., as a landscaping accounting clerk
• As the Key Club’s development sprouted up, Ruth Rogers saw it from behind the scenes. She started the job as a landscaping accounting clerk with Arvida Corp. two years before what is now the Longboat Key Club and Resort opened. The company she had worked for previously out of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport had closed, and her friend saw the accounting clerk position in a newspaper advertisement. Rogers was happy to find a job in accounting, a field she enjoyed. “The only thing that was here was the Islandside golf and tennis facilities,” Rogers said. “The main office was at 301 Gulf of Mexico Drive, and there was no hotel, and nothing at Harbourside was developed yet. It was very exciting to see the hotel being built. Things just grew from there as far as the development.”

• Rogers said that the best part of her job is “working in paradise.” “It is a very beautiful and inclusive property,” Rogers said. “It was exciting to see the growth of the company from the time I started to the present day. A lot has changed.”

Sally Krause
Title: Server
First day: Summer 1982
• Sally Krause was one of the many staffers hired to work at the Key Club’s Islandside facilities as it neared completion in 1982.

• In April, as Krause prepared to celebrate 30 years with the Key Club, she shared some of her favorite memories with the Longboat Observer.

• She recalled a circus wedding reception at the Island House, in which one of the decorations was a trapeze, and another circus party held in the present location of L’Ambiance in which some guests arrived by helicopter and servers wore black and white and were made up with clown faces.

• Krause said that she enjoys the many weddings she has worked and meeting different people. “Being here for so many years, the children I once served are grown, and now I am serving their children,” she said in April.

Mary Kay Ryan
Title: Director of marketing
First day: Dec. 8, 1982, as a clerk/typist
• Mary Kay Ryan was a recent college graduate working at a Sarasota accounting office in 1982 when her dad mentioned a big hotel being built on Longboat Key. She applied for a job and got hired two months after its opening. “We had our Christmas party on my first day of work,” Ryan said.

• Like Sally Krause, Ryan remembers the giant circus party in the late 1980s where L’Ambiance is located today. According to Ryan, it was thrown by the Cigar Association of America and was the biggest event the Key Club had ever put on at that point, complete with lions, tigers and elephants.

• Another of Ryan’s fondest memories dates back to 1994 when the Key Club hosted its first Florida Winefest & Auction, which included a black-tie dinner for 900 people. “We had never undertaken anything of that magnitude where every single person on staff had to work,” Ryan said. “All of us managers were wine runners. We had never taken on something of that scope. I was just so wowed and amazed that not only did we accomplish that, we accomplished it beautifully.”

• The Key Club has hosted scores of prominent guests over the past 30 years. Ryan said that many staffers were especially excited when Aerosmith was based at the Key Club for four or five weeks of its 1993-94 “Get a Grip” tour. They spent lots of time around the resort and were often spotted with their families by the pool. According to Ryan, the staff knew whenever the band was getting ready to leave the property in its five separate limos. And quite a few of them would back into spots under the parking lot trellis to watch, swooping down low in their cars when necessary so that they wouldn’t be spotted.

Anna Brookshire
Title: Revenue manager
First day of work: July 1990
• Anna Brookshire came to Key Club in 1990 as the accommodations manager, in which she was responsible for front-desk reservations and the switchboard. “Thanks for calling the Longboat Key Club and Resort, how can I help you?” she used to answer the phone. Though it’s not much different these days.

• In those early days, the front desk was outside of the building at 301 Gulf of Mexico. Eight years ago, the club moved the front desk to the resort center for the guests’ convenience.

• There have been many famous people who have stayed at the Key Club over the years, but Brookshire won’t divulge whom. But, what she can say is, “We manage to satisfy everyone who stays here. If we have specific requests, we try to take care of them.”

• Her responsibilities these days aren’t interacting with guests, but she does work closely with her staff and other department managers. She doesn’t have a specific favorite moment over the years, but her favorite memories are the people with whom she works daily. “Every day is a good day,” she says of the past few decades.


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