Kristen LaCount, general manager and COO of The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. — the iconic host of this week’s U.S. Open — has a legacy unlike any other. She’s not only the first woman ever to hold the top job at the club, but also, incredibly, the third generation of her family to work at the Boston-area club.
LaCount’s grandparents on both her mother and father’s side had stints at The Country Club, and, in 1983, LaCount’s father, Steven, became the club’s youngest-ever executive chef. Some of LaCount’s earliest childhood memories involve visiting him in the club kitchen, and even assisting with meal service on the line.
LaCount always intended on following her father’s footsteps into the culinary world, but when she graduated from college in 2003 and her own chef-de-cuisine ambitions at a restaurant set to open in Connecticut fell through, she navigated her father’s path in another way, by taking a front-of-house job at The Country Club under longtime GM David Chag, who had hired Steven. LaCount quickly made her way up the ranks, assuming a number of roles over the years. When, after 33 years on the job, Chag stepped down in an official capacity, LaCount was the obvious choice to succeed him, becoming the general manager and COO in 2020.
Despite LaCount’s deeply personal connection to The Country Club, her greatest legacy may not be what she’s established for herself, but rather one that’s still in its infancy: a developing partnership with the nearby Brookline Teen Center (BTC), a safe haven for middle and high-school age kids that’s only two miles from The Country Club’s gates — but a world apart in many other ways. BTC opened its doors in 2013, and provides nurturing programming for up to 100 youths a week.
Even before LaCount assumed the role of GM and COO, diversity, equity and inclusion were always top of mind, especially after taking a tour of the BTC with her husband, Boston restauranteur Dan Kerrigan.
“I fell in love with the place,” LaCount said.
The couple started providing meals for BTC’s weekly Thursday dinners, called “Supper Club.”
LaCount’s involvement grew when new BTC executive director Alicia Adamson came on board in August 2020. The two women quickly bonded over their mutual desire to find ways to give back. One of Adamson’s top priorities is to provide a greater platform of opportunity for BTC’s teens, so she and LaCount started recruiting batches of BTC regulars to work at The Country Club.
“Kristen really does care about opening the door for other teens, similar to how this door was opened for her family,” Adamson said.
Adamson was impressed by the positive experience the first batch of BTC workers had at The Country Club, despite the fact that many of them had never set foot on any private club property, let alone a storied and historic venue like The Country Club.
Ultimately, one of Adamson’s goals is to demystify the country-club experience by taking the teens on regular field trips to the club — not just to convince them that it’s a great place to get a job, but also to help them understand the importance of networking.
“I wouldn’t know what a private club was if I didn’t work for one, because I didn’t grow up in this,” LaCount said with a laugh. “What’s great about this industry is, if you have a personality, a smile, and it looks like you enjoy what you’re doing, we can probably teach you the rest.”
A living embodiment of those characteristics is 19-year-old Chris Martinez. Martinez arrived in Massachusetts eight years ago from Honduras, unable to speak a word of English. He started hanging out at the BTC after school, meeting up with friends to play basketball. Nearly three years ago, LaCount recruited Martinez to work at The Country Club. He’s done it all — maître d’, serving, bartending and training new employees.
“It is very welcoming. Everyone helps you be comfortable,” Martinez said recently by phone. “They give you a lot of training, as much as you need. The people become family. I think it’s one of the best jobs I ever had.”
Martinez says that getting face time with LaCount is common, despite her busy schedule. And LaCount loves having the opportunity to check in with her potential proteges frequently and, ideally, to encourage them in what could become a lasting career.
“When I’m here at night, it’s a perfect time to spend five minutes with them, ask them about home, what are they thinking.” LaCount says.
For now, Martinez is working full-time, but he’ll scale back when he returns to school in the fall. His ambition is to work in fashion, and he already has a personal brand in development.
Martinez’s success is just one example of what LaCount and Adamson hope to accomplish in the future.
On Saturday, Adamson will attend the U.S. Open with a group of her teens. Perhaps one of them will use the experience as a launchpad of sorts — a job, an interest in golf or maybe just the satisfaction of a new experience.
Worthy causes all.