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GreatLIFE announces leadership changes

Original content published by Sioux Falls Business Journal with Jodi Schwan.

GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness has named Nick Ovenden as its new president, along with a new leadership team.

Ovenden replaces Donn Hill, who has been president since GreatLIFE was founded more than five years ago. Hill has taken a new position as pastor of missions and operations at First Evangelical Free Church. His last day at GreatLIFE is April 30.

He will continue to have ownership in Bakker Crossing Golf Course, which is part of GreatLIFE.

“Everything I’ve experienced has led me to this point, and it’s the right thing at the right time that allows me to work with the church I’ve been part of all my life and use my passion for mission in places like South Sudan. I’ll still be a supporter of GreatLIFE because I believe in the mission and I believe we’re making a positive difference in people’s lives,” Hill said.

“The element that’s much different from even what we conceived was how huge the fitness role could become in this and how much the company could actually impact people’s lives through fitness and healthy lifestyles.”

GreatLIFE was founded by Tom Walsh Sr., who remains CEO.

“As with all things, there’s change, and I want to thank Donn for five great years,” Walsh said. “What we’ve been able to accomplish has changed the world. We’ve become a lifestyle.”

Ovenden is well positioned to take over the leadership role, Walsh and Hill said.

A Sioux Falls native and Augustana University graduate, he worked at the Sanford POWER program before becoming a trainer and assistant department head at Life Time Fitness in the Twin Cities. He joined GreatLIFE as director of fitness and nutrition in early 2014.

“I love everything we stand for,” Ovenden said. “I understand what Donn’s vision and leadership style has been, and I think I’ll be able to utilize a lot of the knowledge I’ve gotten from him and be able to take the company on for 20 or 30 years, hopefully. We’ve talked about changing the world, and that’s truly what we want to do.”

Ovenden will lead a newly named leadership team:

Brad Hansen is vice president of development. He joined GreatLIFE as director of food and beverage last year and has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including as an operating partner at Burger King.

“Brad has a great financial grasp of the things we need to do, and he can help us take a step back and see what makes sense,” Ovenden said. “His food and beverage background really helps our golf and fitness centers take their offerings to the next level.”

Randall Hill is vice president of fitness, after previously managing the GreatLIFE Performance Center at 69th Street and Southeastern Avenue.

“Randall is an incredible leader,” Ovenden said. “He just turned 30, and he leads like he’s been doing it for 20 years. He’s a very visionary thinker, and he’s got people who follow him who put his vision into action, and that’s why he’s been so effective.”

Jason Sudenga is vice president of golf. He has led golf at GreatLIFE since its inception after doing the same at Bakker Crossing.

“Jason is the best business mind in golf,” Ovenden said. “He’s a golf mind but open to change and is not a traditionalist. He’s open to ideas and knows we don’t have a typical golf base.”

With about 40,000 members and more than 500 team members, GreatLIFE has fundamentally changed the golf and fitness market locally in the past five years. Ovenden predicts significant growth ahead, though.

“Our ultimate goal is to change the world, so we need to figure out how to manage our growth and be great at what we do, so when we grow into different cities, we’re providing the best possible member experience,” he said. “As long as we’re doing that, I think our potential is limitless. There are a lot of places with golf courses and fitness centers, but what sets us apart is our culture – our attention to detail and how much we care about our members.”

Ovenden is passionate about building GreatLIFE and brings the work ethic needed to do it, Hill added.

“We have a lot of people committed to doing whatever it takes to get it done, and Nick’s been that way from the start, along with many others,” he said. “He’s the right guy to carry it on.”

Ovenden agrees the job is more than a job.

“It’s so much more than a paycheck,” he said. “I know that’s cliche, but when you find your passion and understand your calling in life and you can apply that to work, it doesn’t seem like work.”