THE KILLEEN STORY
Killeen is a Lubbock native, graduating from Texas Christian University. Turned professional in 2007 and competed on the Web.com and PGA Tour from till 2016. In 2015, Killeen and a long time friend started working on our vision of 4ORE! Golf.
I started my career in the golf industry when I turned professional in 2005. In 2007 I made it to the Final Stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School, earning web.com status. In 2011 I won twice on the web.com tour and was named player of the year. In 2012 I competed on the PGA Tour, making 17 cuts and finishing 137th on the Fed Ex Cup list. Then in 2013 and 2014 I injured both my shoulders and underwent surgery on them. At that time I was looking toward my future hoping to say within the golf industry.
After talking with a friend that sponsored me when I first turned professional, we decided markets like Lubbock could really benefit from a family based entertainment venue. Essentially, we wanted to create a golf environment that beginners and professionals could both enjoy equally. We also wanted a legitimate golf component so we added the Academy at 4ORE, which has industry leading technology and offers many programs for beginners and those looking to pursue the game professionally.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the passion that drives you each day?
The fact that I get to wake up every day and do something that I love to do. 4ORE! Golf is fun, but also is bigger than I ever thought it would be. We have over 430 associates and a lot of moving parts, but our management team is second to none and they have become some of my closest friends. The smiles on the faces of everyone in our building make all the hard work worth it.
What was the genesis in creating 4ORE! Golf?
One of my good friends, who sponsored me when I first turned professional, and I began talking one day after my season had ended. I had two shoulder surgeries and was unsure about my golfing future at that time. We thought it would be exciting to come up with a golf entertainment venue for Lubbock that revolved around the game we both loved. Two and a half years later, here we are.
How is 4ORE! Golf different than what TopGolf provides?
We are a golf entertainment facility with games powered by BigShots Golf. We use real golf balls, in the sense that they are what you would find on any other driving range. Also, our Doppler radar based technology is able to track the entire duration of your shots, creating an incredible practice scenarios well as interactive games for all skill levels. We have an Academy that is over 2,500 square feet, complete with an outdoor short game area. In this Academy we can custom fit all leading manufacturers and offer individual lessons, camps, college prep program, plus many other amenities under the supervision of PGA instruction professionals.
Roughly 60% of the people who go to TopGolf have never had a golf club in their hand when they stepped in the door — how do you plan on getting people casual about the sport interested in playing the traditional game regularly?
We have a fun energetic atmosphere that I believe will introduce people to the game, however to grow the game from there is so important to us that it is one of our core values and part of our mission statement. Our Academy provides one of the best teaching environments I have ever seen to get people more confident about their game. Additionally, our relationship with TROON allows us to utilize other TROON properties to bring people out onto the golf course and perhaps to 4ORE! Golf after they play a round. We provide an avenue for many to become introduced to the game of golf, but we take exceptional pride in the fact that we offer a very integrative golf experience.
Does that even matter to your business success if those coming to 4ORE! Golf become regular and active players of traditional golf?
100% it does. I owe a lot to golf and want to see it succeed in every facet. The more people we can bring to a golf course after being introduced to the game at our facility, the better. If we see any sort of uptick in rounds played at golf courses in our area, I would consider that a tremendous victory. Our 4ORE Elite Academy Program focuses just as much on traditional golf and we offer many “on course” lessons thanks again to our partnership with TROON. I think we will create great synergy with the traditional game.
Why Lubbock as the first location?
Lubbock is an emerging market and was voted by Forbes magazine as the 13th best place in the United States to start a business. We have a major University and this is a sports-crazed city. Entertainment options have been the same for many years here and we recognized how Lubbock has embraced and supported so many new businesses recently. It just made sense not only from an economical perspective, but a golf perspective as well.
What type of expansion do you see happening in the short term and what areas in the country are being contemplated?
All of our focus currently is on making Lubbock as successful as possible. This is a new twist on the golf entertainment industry and we want to make sure we are doing everything right here in Lubbock.
Golf is going through serious issues regarding future growth – especially here in America with Millennials, women and minorities. What would you advise the major golf organizations to be doing to increase participation in the sport?
I think we need to first, make golf more accessible and cheaper by working with local charities and organizations. Harold Varner III wrote a great article a while back and he mentioned how he was able to learn and play the game. As a junior he could play an entire summer for only $100 and programs like that are hard to find currently. If we really want to grow the game, I think we need to offer discounted junior programs, free instruction, and work with local organizations. I am proud of our 4ORE! Golf team working with Lubbock organizations offering free golf and lessons regularly throughout the year. Money and time are two of the biggest things that deter people from golf. We have to create solutions for these problems in order for golf to move forward.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I think the game takes too long and there are too many rules. That might be two things, but they go hand-in-hand. If we speed up play by making the hole bigger, it would probably cut as much as an hour off of each round. We could consider simplifying the rules as well. PGA Tour Pros don’t know all the rules, so there is no way a beginner can understand them as well. I know this is something the USGA and R&A is currently working on and I’m all for it.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
My Grandpa taught me to surround myself with people more experienced than myself and learn from them. I’ve learned a lot on the golf course by always playing practice rounds with veterans, and I have learned a lot in the business world by listening to experts. Golf draws a lot of parallels to life in general and I’m thankful to have been surrounded and supported by great people in both those facets.