Willow Brook Country Club – Celebrating a Century in Tyler

by Lana Adams
General Manager, Willow Brook Country Club

There are 9,577 country clubs in the United States,
but there is only one Willow Brook Country Club! 

Back in April 1921, 112 charter members officially established “Tyler Country Club,” more widely known as “Dixie Highway Country Club.” Willow Brook was officially established in August 1922. The formal opening of the club was held in June 1923. By 1926, there were 85 stockholders who paid $100 for a share of stock. Willow Brook has survived many obstacles over its 100 years: The Great Depression, both World Wars, the Great Recession, and mostly recently COVID-19. 

What makes Willow Brook so unique? Easy answer: the people, the culture, and the traditions. Willow Brook is a home away from home for more than 900 memberships, which equates to over 3,500 members. 

The People:

Members come to Willow Brook for an escape from their everyday hustle and bustle. The staff concentrates on the member experience. The above and beyond service and attitudes of the employees make Willow Brook a special place. Anyone who has sampled a slice of San Francisco Pie or enjoyed its legendary, scrumptious buffets for a wedding or club party will attest to its excellent cuisine. It is knowing that Mrs. Ann Lilly enjoys her beverage to be poured into a mug on ice. It is knowing that Mr. Steve Wiggs enjoys his salmon well-done. It is knowing that Mr. Harry Caserta sits at Table 2 in the Chophouse each time he makes a reservation. The list could go on and on, but it is all in the details. 

For the last forty years, up to the present, every person walking through the front glass doors is greeted by a finely dressed, infectious smile of Willie Marvels. Many members joke and call Willow Brook, “Willie Brook.” The operating management team consists of General Manager Lana Adams (12 years and is the first female General Manager as well as the first General Manager to be promoted from within the Club); Superintendent Ken Bowman (14 years); Director of Golf Chris Hudson (21 years); and Melvin Guevara (11 years). Over a quarter of the staff has been employed at Willow Brook for more than ten years. 

While enjoying the club, you will see many generations of members. The true focus on what makes Willow Brook different is the rich history and continued relationships the members have with each other and the staff. 

Director of Golf Chris Hudson and his team instrumentally developed a first-class junior golf program at Willow Brook. Each afternoon, you will see junior golfers teeing off on Number 1 or playing together on the short course during the summer. The short course was a dream developed into a reality with the help of Past President Mark Strawn and golf architect Tripp Davis. After golf, the juniors will dine together for lunch or dinner, growing relationships, and team building. Throughout the school year, the golf coaches hold after-school clinics to develop the Willow Brook Warriors and the Willow Brook Gladiators teams for future competitions. 

Director of Tennis James Daly and his team have blossomed the tennis program at Willow Brook. You will witness leagues, after-school programs, private lessons, or social mixers with members having a great experience. 

Success can be credited to all the past and current board members and their committees seeing into the future. The history of the President’s Hallway is a testament to the countless sacrifices influential men had, and continue to have, on the Club. There is always a project in development to make the club stand-out or grow. The continuing reinvestment makes Willow Brook better, and its continuing growth is another driving force for accomplishment. 

The Culture: 

The definition of culture refers to a large and diverse set of mostly intangible aspects of social life. According to sociologists, culture consists of the values, beliefs, systems of language, communication, and practices that people share that can be used to define them as a collective. 

Willow Brook culture is like no other. Creating the best member experience is the priority of the Board of Directors. The staff’s priority is solely focused on the members. They are trained on the culture, striving to personalize the service experience beyond greeting club members by name. The staff works diligently to get know the member’s habits, likes and dislikes, and provide service accordingly. That kind of personalization is the key differentiator for so many people becoming members at the Club.