Brett Miller became addicted to golf because he was good at baseball. That’s the long and short of it. If he could blast a baseball – a moving target – then surely he could hit a stationery ball.
“At 13, I thought I was a decent little baseball player, and then I went and picked up a golf club and would actually whiff the ball,” said Miller, Western Carolina University’s March Alumni Spotlight. “It drove me crazy. I just had to try to conquer the sport, and I think that’s what gets every golfer. They just get caught by the bug. They also get caught by the comradery, the people you get to hang out with. But it’s the challenge. It just sticks with you. It’s crazy, it really is.”
Crazy or not, Miller’s persistence paid off. In the five short years after he swung his first club at Etowah Valley Golf Club, where he worked as a forecaddie and a cart attendant as a teenager, Miller entered WCU on a golf scholarship and proceeded to rip through the college circuit as a three-time All-Southern Conference player, eventually earning himself a place in WCU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduating from WCU in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in sport management and in 1988 with his master’s degree, Miller, carved out his niche as a real estate agent for golf courses in the Southeast, focusing on public courses to ensure his favorite sport was available to anyone who wanted to play.
In May, Miller will be the first recipient of the Community Impact award presented by the Carolinas Section of the PGA. He is scheduled to receive his award during the 103rd PGA Golf Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the PGA’s second major championship in golf’s annual rotation.
“The Carolinas PGA is honored to have Brett Miller as our inaugural Community Impact Award recipient. Brett is the epitome of what this award stands for by always giving back to his community,” said Jeff Abbot, executive director of Carolinas PGA Section. “Over the course of his 30 years as a PGA professional, Brett has served on countless boards, including the Carolinas PGA. He has supported important causes for diversity and inclusion, as well as serving our disabled veterans by helping to found our PGA HOPE chapter in Asheville. We are certainly proud of Brett and his willingness to give back to the community.”
Giving back, is right. Miller, a 30-year member of the PGA, volunteers with the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County and the Western North Carolina chapter of PGA Hope, a national program that teaches golf to veterans. He started the Asheville chapter and also is starting chapters in Johnson City, Tennessee, and Roanoke, Virginia. All three are affiliated with their respective U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.
“I really enjoy doing it and I’m certainly the one who benefits the most from these guys. They have a big time and it’s great meeting them and getting their mind off of other things and their focus on a sport, a recreation,” said Miller, owner of Miller Management, a consulting firm for golf facility operations and brokerage of golf properties he started about 15 years ago while managing Broadmoor Golf Links in Fletcher.
Miller also serves on various boards throughout Western North Carolina, has helped develop and support women’s golf programs at WCU, University of North Carolina Asheville and Brevard College, and supported initiatives to increase diversity in golf for juniors at Skyview Golf Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes golf competition among African American golfers throughout the region. Additionally, he currently serves as a mentor in the Professional Alumni Working with Students mentorship program, a program initiated by the Division of Advancement, and on the board of directors for the Blue Ridge Community College Foundation.
It was an honor, he said, to be recognized for his life’s work. “I was quite humbled with this award from our over 2,000 PGA professionals in the Carolinas. I feel being able to associate and work with some of these great organizations and people is my blessing and honor. You learn much about perspective.”
Miller’s perspective on golf was formed all those summers ago at his hometown golf resort, where he came to appreciate the relationship between golf courses and their communities and idolize his club’s PGA professional Hayes Albea, who first hired Miller. He watched, too, as the country’s fluctuating economic status affected the ebb and flow of golfers who supported one of his little community’s biggest asset.
“You know the country club has changed dramatically from what it was 30 years ago. It’s more of a multirecreational, open facility now,” Miller said. “I was always affiliated with public fee golf courses and welcoming everyone to the game of golf and that’s something that’s very important to me,” he said. “I’ve been in an industry that in the past has been very exclusive, but at my facilities, everyone was always welcome.”
Through his real estate business and volunteering, Miller’s plan is to keep golf viable for all people by creating new models to help public courses better survive economic downturns and by bringing more diverse players to the game, because, as he learned so long ago, there’s more to golf than just not whiffing the ball.
“It is strategic. Everything I do with the game is strategic,” he said. “Golf pulls people up socioeconomically. It certainly lifted me up socioeconomically. The contacts you make in golf, it just lifts people up and gives them more opportunity.”
Professional Alumni Working with Students (P.A.W.S.) provides the opportunity for the talented WCU alumni base to connect with current students.
This meaningful one-on-one experience allows students to progress professionally, academically, and personally through guided mentorship and goal-based activities. Learn More