owever serene the spa, gorgeous the golf course, luxurious the villa or delicious the meal, a resort is only as special as its staff. While vistas can, and do, create a perfect backdrop, it is the people — their passion, their standards, their genuine love for the job — who stand in the foreground. These three members of the Pelican Hill family recognize and perpetuate one common and powerful truth: Moments make memories, and those memories matter.
Above and Beyond
As a teen growing up in Southern California, sports was always a big part of Justin Smith’s life, but when his father introduced him to golf, he knew he’d found his calling. “I like the individualistic nature of the game,” Justin says. “You have no one to blame but yourself. I’m a self-motivated person. I get out what I put into things, and it’s challenging. But when you perform well, it’s rewarding to see the results.” Justin has played alongside his father on courses around the world, though he remembers Scotland’s historic links clubs — St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Turnberry — as standout experiences.
Even after teeing it up in all of those exotic locales, Justin loves coming home to Pelican Hill Golf Club,® which he feels offers an experience second to none. “The courses are very well designed and it’s a great mix of challenging holes and friendly, easier holes,” he says. “It’s a treat to play by the ocean, and the design of the course fits my eye.”
What Justin has found even more rewarding, since joining Pelican Hill’s golf staff in 2015, is sharing that enthusiasm and love for the game through teaching. “Last summer,” he says, “I worked with a couple that was new to the game. The wife was hesitant to even play, but we worked on simple fundamentals. She was enjoying it and we saw a ton of improvement. They kept adding lessons and, by the end of the week, the wife made three pars on a nine-hole course. A few weeks later, I got a text from the husband saying that he’d just shot a hole in one. That was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. That’s why I teach: so that I can see success and watch my guests enjoy the game.”
The Memory Maker
As a kid, Valeree Soria’s family moved between 24 to 30 times. They tended to stay in each place for just a few months; she attended 12 elementary schools. “When you’re little, you want friends, and I didn’t have much time to make an impression,” she says. “Now, after all that practice, I know how to make a strong, positive impact right off the bat.”
Valeree’s parents were in property management, and she has fond memories of her father helping tenants to resolve their questions and concerns. “That’s where my interest in hospitality originally stemmed from,” she says.
Over the past two years, as her career advanced from reservation agent to trainer and finally to supervisor, guests have often told Valeree that they feel as if they’ve known her forever. Many ask for her by name, knowing they’ll hear a trusted voice at the other end of the line.
“When I was a new reservations agent, I asked my supervisor: What can I give the guests? What more can I do? I got my answer when one repeat guest called to ask whether the Resort still carried the little stuffed pelican toys known as Murdock. This guest’s little boy was 8 years old,” she explains, “and he already had eight Murdocks at home, lining his bedroom wall.” The upcoming visit to Pelican Hill® was an annual birthday treat, and his mom entrusted Valeree with keeping the Murdock tradition alive. Valeree made sure a ninth Murdock awaited the boy on his next visit, and took the lesson to heart. “The simplest things we do often make the biggest impact,” she says.
An Expectation of Excellence
Some people seem to be custom-suited for their profession. In the case of Retail Manager Tim Gregory, high standards, a refined sensibility and strict attention to detail are woven into his DNA, making him the perfect man for the job.
Since coming on board in 2016 to oversee three Pelican Hill® outlets — the Golf Shop, Allegra® and Newsstand — Tim pursues his personal mission with a passion: Meet every guest’s want and need, even those they may not yet recognize. His staff of 12 has learned from him the importance of paying attention to details: the simple act of walking a package around a counter or slipping a pen into a guest’s hand. “If your luggage is delayed or lost, we take care of you,” he says. “Our shops are full-service and offer everything from accessories and flip-flops to casual clothing and elegant wear.”
Local clients shop at Pelican Hill as well. “We call our regular customers whenever a requested item or favorite designer comes in. We just started carrying the Monrow men’s line,” says Tim, “which is coveted by some of our locals. The clothing is so soft, it’s dangerous.”
Tim feeds off of the variety of guest requests and the knowledge that there will never be a typical day. Challenging himself to create above-and-beyond “wow” moments ensures that he will never be bored. “Maintaining these standards makes me a better person,” he says. “I have a more refined sense of self. I treat people better and have higher standards in my own life. The details are important to me. When I go out to eat, I ask myself: Is the staff genuine? Are they enjoying their work? The plating, the quality, the food, the temperature: I notice everything and expect excellence.”