Innsbrook Director of Event Operations Kate Leto Welcomed Back with Open Arms
When Kate Leto left her job as Director of Event Operations for Innsbrook Country Club for a year to work at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, she discovered she missed the club’s camaraderie, social atmosphere and family environment. The feeling, as it turned out, was mutual. Although she enjoyed her time at the Radisson where she made some wonderful friends, she says, she never really severed her relationship with Innsbrook.
“I maintained a membership at the club and I would constantly run into members at the Radisson,” Leto says. “Of course, Mr. McColly asking me to return did make it very easy to say ‘yes.’ It was like coming home, I was absolutely thrilled to receive such a warm welcome back.”
Ronald McColly, president of McColly Real Estate, who has co-owned Innsbrook Country Club since 2004 with James Gagan, says that Leto, who genuinely cares about all the country club’s members, was definitely missed.
“When she came back people were saying that was the best thing that happened to the club in a long time,” McColly says. “She really understands the banquet catering business and what the bride and the mother of the bride want to make the wedding day special. That is important because it is one of the biggest days of their lives.”
McColly explains that Leto has been responsible for helping build Innsbrook’s current team. “I admire the autonomy of our management team, namely Jim Formas our Golf Pro, Marko Avorio the Executive Chef, Joel Sanders our Grounds Superintendent and Carmen Regalado our Comptroller. We work together as a team; while maintaining our independence in running our own departments and realize that a sense of humor goes a long way.”
Leto, who began working at Innsbrook in 2006, oversees the day to day operations of the clubhouse, staffing, menu development and the Banquet Department “plus all the other little details that add up to a successful country club.”
What Leto loves most about her job is the interaction and connection with the members and the planning and execution of special events and all aspects of banquets. “The friends you make become an extension of your family. That is part of the allure of a country club. The challenge, Leto says, is keeping the exclusivity of a private club for the members while continuing to grow and cultivating a banquet department that is open to the public.
Leto said her proudest accomplishments at Innsbrook include the smooth day to day running of the clubhouse, especially when the members are fully engaged and benefitting from all the amenities that the club has to offer. Secondly, Leto said, starting with the first wedding back in 2006, she developed the banquet department/special events and with McColly’s blessing, opened the banquet facilities to the public.
“We have watched the event business grow very successfully over the years,” Leto says. “Mr. McColly also renovated the northwest end of the clubhouse to incorporate three additional meeting rooms.”
Future plans include installing a Bocce Ball court within the year, she said.
“We want to continue to enhance the holiday events such as the Halloween party for the kids, and the Mother’s Day and Easter buffets,” Leto says, “Not to mention, our pool mimics a mini water park. Each year, we continue to grow and draw new members. Our central location has been very advantageous in that regard.”
Leto grew up and was educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “I came to America and started my career in the hospitality industry and here I am 30 years later,” Leto explains.
After 16 years working for the O’Brien Family and eight years at Whittaker Woods, Leto took the job at Innsbrook because she wanted to be closer to home and was ready for a new challenge. “Innsbrook offered me that opportunity,” Leto says.
Leto considers Peter and Danny O’Brien her mentors.
“I worked for Peter at their restaurant in Old Town and then at their restaurant on The River Walk on Lower Wacker Drive,” Leto says. “In 1998, I joined his father at Whittaker Woods Golf Community in New Buffalo and commuted for eight years. I would have to say my biggest supporter is my husband Mark. He is and has always been, a wonderful dad to our two children. He took up the slack when I worked the long hours that are demanded when one works in the hospitality industry.” She believes responsibility, commitment and integrity are the keys to success plus the necessity to deliver and exceed expectations.
“It is the ability to adapt to each new situation while staying faithful to the client’s needs and paying attention to detail in order to achieve the best possible outcome,” Leto says. Her personal goals are “to always produce the best quality work and “to be true to myself, the clients, and my coworkers.”
Leto finds the commitment of Innsbrook to the community fulfilling.
“At this time myself, Ron McColly, his daughter Rhonda McColly-Fleener, and her daughter Randalynn McColly-Fleener are very active with the Methodist Hospital’s Foundation,” Leto says. “We, along with other members of our staff and club members, have all been working very hard to support the Foundation’s Mardi Gras Season, which, for us, is actually a year-long process.”
Innsbrook Country Club also silently partners with the McColly Foundation, which raises funds and supports local charities including Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, the American Heart Association, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Dollars for Scholars and Purdue University.
Innsbrook Country Club will be 95 years old this year, she explains and the club has been completely renovated and has an amazing Member Grille that overlooks the greens.
“Our steakhouse restaurant, Langford’s Grille, boasts the best prime aged steaks in the area,” Leto says. “We try to get across the message that Innsbrook is not just a golf club, we offer a great social membership. I would go as far as to say we are the Region’s best kept secret for dining.”