Guest post by Andre Wells, senior associate – technology and managing consulting with McGladrey LLP, the nation’s leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services focused on the middle market. Andre is one of several of the firm’s Birdies Fore Love office leaders, who was chosen to attend The McGladrey Classic as a result of his involvement in the charitable aspect of this year’s McGladrey Classic.
I was excited to be chosen as the winner of the trip to The McGladrey Classic…but the excitement of being chosen pales in the light of actually being here. Every moment I’ve experienced up until writing this post has far exceeded the last. I have no doubt that the good times will continue. However, I really should start from the beginning.
When the driver picked me up at the airport, I was already excited. I handed over my bags and hopped into the car with the energy of a kid headed to the candy store or an amusement park. Imagine that same kid watching the mile markers and street signs and counting down the miles. After about 20 minutes into the hour-long trip, I pulled out my laptop and logged into work. I did this not so much because I’m a workaholic, but purely to avoid asking, “Are we there yet? How ‘bout now? Now? No? How ‘bout now?” all the way along the ride. The kid in me was on Cloud Nine. fter answering a few emails, I quickly found myself back to reality for a brief moment. I say, “a brief moment” because just as my proverbial feet touched back down, I saw it—A HUGE billboard on the side of the highway advertising the fifth annual McGladrey Classic! At that moment, I shot THROUGH cloud nine and right into outer space. Now not only was I excited, but also so proud to be a member of the McGladrey team and the lucky winner of such an amazing opportunity. I grinned from ear to ear for the rest of the drive to Sea Island.
Arriving on the island began the next level of excitement. Being originally from Chicago, living most of my adult life in Southern California and travelling from one busy city to the next for work, that this part of Georgia is a brand new experience for me. The bridges, highways and byways connecting one area of marsh to the next seemed to stretch for miles. Osprey, cranes and other birds indigenous to the area were a beautiful sight. However, my favorite sight had to be the ”Terrapin Crossing” sign posted as you make your way into the town. Now THAT’S something you don’t see in California. I contend with pedestrians, squirrels, dogs, deer and the occasional skunk…but this was a literal sign to me that I wasn’t in Cali anymore. Welcome to Sea Island, where the only traffic you might see probably has something to do with a turtle in the road!
While there was much beauty on our way to the resort, nothing made a bigger impression on me than the small streets lined with majestic oak trees draped in Spanish moss. The canopy of outstretched branches and moss (what locals refer to as “The Avenue of the Oaks”) marks the entrance into The Lodge – top-notch resort with a charming old-world look. Pulling up to the resort filled me with awe. Everything about The Cloister said, “Welcome to Southern Comfort.” I could write pages and pages trying to describe the character, charm and beauty of the grounds but a picture is worth a thousand words…and I hope you are able to see some of the stunning photos of the grounds.
After spending a little time in my room, I headed over to an evening reception for clients and potential clients. I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated when I arrived. Seeing McGladrey Managing Partner and CEO Joe Adams and other McGladrey leadership team members in person (after seeing his pictures and hearing them via conference calls) was a treat. My brain began to swim with names and titles and practice groups and regions before I had even made my first introduction. Heart-racing, palms sweaty…I searched the room for a familiar face. Then Terri Andrews, the firm’s national public relations director, found me. Her smiling face and outstretched hand calmed everything. After a few introductions and a whirlwind photo shoot – including a picture of me with PGA TOUR Professional and Team McGladrey Member Zach Johnson, I was no longer lost and no longer panicked. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world to be a part of such a great group of people coming together for a great cause.
While Golf is the overarching theme of the event, the core of The McGladrey Classic and Birdies Fore Love is about stewardship - which is also one of McGladrey’s core values. And what better way to give back than by focusing on charitable organizations that support families and children, the focus of The McGladrey Classic. Stewardship to me is our duty to our clients, to our communities, to each other and our world at large to manage and care for resources in a way that ensures future access to those resources. Whether it be a safer place for children or much-needed essentials for entire families, I am beyond proud to be a part of a family of professionals committed to giving back. Above all the excitement, beauty, history and memorable moments on my first day on Sea Island, winning this trip has brought me in contact with a deeper and richer experience of stewardship and family--And for that, I’m the luckiest man on the island!