As he lay on his back recovering from a horrific accident, Jason Becker realized he didn’t like the direction his career was headed.
In 2003, he visited Southwest Florida and fell in love with the area. A student at Saginaw Valley Statewhere he studied electrical engineering, he thought “What in the world can I do to get out of Michigan and come down here?”
Moments later, he said a drunk driver collided with the van he was riding in while trying to cross lanes on Interstate 40 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lying in a fold-out bed, Becker was thrown from the van onto the interstate where he somehow dodged oncoming vehicles.
“Headlights flew by,” he said. “I stood up and the van was 1,000 feet down the road. My friends were looking and screaming for me. I remember looking around and not knowing what happened. Unfortunately, I only had on a pair of shorts.”
When a woman came near him and looked, she pointed and started screaming. Becker looked down and saw the blood. He didn’t feel pain because the nerve endings had been shred. He had lost 75 percent of his skin from road rash.
“I thought, ‘I’m alive, don’t go into shock’,” he said. “I could hear the ambulance. Fortunately, the university hospital was a short distance away.
“To this day, my wife Courtney pulls asphalt out of my back.”
Becker returned home to Michigan to recover and grow his skin back. “I had a lot of time to stare at the ceiling and think.”
He may have been left with life-long scars but he also felt he was given the greatest gift in the world — a second chance.
Almost a year to the day later, Becker made good on the promise to himself and moved to Florida. After a variety of jobs in and out of golf, Becker enrolled in FGCU’s first golf management program class.
While working as a first assistant at Golf Club at Everglades in Naples, he talked to members who were not happy with the club. He strove to find out why and many members were not fully informed about the club before they joined. He found course general managers mainly relied on advertising and word of mouth to draw people’s interest, but did not dig deep to find out what potential members really wanted or needed out of the club.
With the help of others, he became founder and president of Golf Membership Consultants, Inc., which evolved into Golf Life Navigators. One reporter described the company as eHarmony for people seeking golf-course communities.
“The friendships and camaraderie are what makes the program special,” he said. “I really believe the folks we work with in their mid 50s were successful in the mid 1990s because the communication they did was over the table and not texting or e-mailing.”
After starting as Golf membership Consultants in 2013, Becker and his team changed the name to Golf Life Navigators in 2015. In the last year, 24 members have joined Southwest Florida golf communities through their service. Overall sales in the last quarter was $7 million, he said.
Becker added that they have a list of 1,300 clients they met through 20 visits to northern communities who are interested in buying/investing in the next 12-24 months.
Becker has a team of 11 people in Southwest Florida, seven in Palm Beach Countyand four in Sarasota. He also has an advisory board, which includes 24 business minds from various endeavors in Southwest Florida and beyond.
How would you describe this business?
Basically, it’s a personalized program for those who are about to make one of the biggest buying decisions of their life. We want to give them a home-away-from-home experience by being a support system. Filtering a golf community is a small piece of it. We have them fill out a questionnaire. … It’s not a matrix system. You’re talking to a real human being. We’re talking about the next 15-20 years of their lives. Our motto is clients for life. We have cocktail parties and golf tournaments with these people. A lot become family. (Realtor) Trevor (Johnson) who helped a family buy a home in Mediterra, he had them over for Thanksgiving.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Lynn Josephson is my business partner and mentor coming through the PGA program. He built old Florida Golf Club and went to Old Collier to sell memberships. He’s done a number of projects in his career. I told him I’d really like to do this project but not without you. He said, ‘I have one more project in me, let’s do it.’
Brian Smith has been my big brother. He started working with me a year ago and has been my coach, advisor and strategist. Throughout his career, he’s been a very successful guy. He said, ‘I beat my head against a wall, and I want to keep you from doing that.’ There’s a real emotional attachment. I’ll talk to him 50-60 hours a week. (Monday), we talked for 15 hours straight, talking business.
Have you ever failed?
Shark Tank had a casting call in Miami Beach last year, and I thought I’d go and try it out and experience what it’s all about. I was there a good nine hours. They put me in a short pile and talked to the producer. He said, ‘We bring in 135 entrepreneurs to film in 20 different cities. Thousands apply.’ They really liked my idea but it wasn’t tangible, something they couldn’t put in their hands. It still haunts me. So I didn’t get to level 2. But I might try again.
What inspires you?
It’s not just to make a difference in the world of business but to lead people and see people excited about a program you developed. Quite frankly, I want my kids to have a good life and see places without financial restriction. That’s why I work as hard as I do. I’m not a selfish person. I get more excited when the people I work with get excited.
What do you need to improve on?
One thing I have to get better at is that I can have a good day but I still wonder about things that didn’t go right.
What do you do for fun?
I play hockey every week. But hiking with my wife Courtney is what I like to do. We go at least three, four times to North Carolina. Three days is all we need. It’s pretty strenuous hiking and there’s no phone, no communication. I wish I could tell you golf. I hardly play anymore.
What’s your greatest success?
Obviously, getting this to where it is. Being recognized by the PGA of America to start a company in 2012. I wasn’t sure the PGA would allow me to do this. When I gave my presentation, the CFO stopped me halfway and said, ‘I completely get it. I love it. PGA professional helping people. How can we help?’ They put an article in PGA Magazine and that kicked the whole thing off.
Name: Jason Becker
Occupation: Founder and president of Gulf Life Navigators, where PGA Professionals help golfers find the best club membership to fit their needs.
Previous experience: First Tee (2012-14), Head golf professional, Boca Raton Resort and Club (2010), adjunct instructor at Johnson and Wales (2010)
Education: FGCU graduate with bachelors of science degree in resort and hospitality (2009)
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