Owner, Hermitage Golf Course Properties
Mike started his golf career in 1976 as an assistant golf professional under his father, Harold Eller, at Old Hickory Country Club. He then became head pro for 6 years. During that time, he met Nashville businessman, Ray Danner. They became fast friends and great golfing partners. Mike always wanted to own a daily fee golf course with flexibility to host outside community outings and Ray had always wanted to own a golf course when he retired. That led to the original 18 holes - General's Retreat - at Hermitage Golf Course, which opened in 1986. It hosted the LPGA’s prestigious Sara Lee Classic from 1988-1999. They successfully opened two other golf courses: one in Memphis, Tenn., and one in Greenville, South Carolina. Mike assisted in the course design, routing, and building of Hermitage’s second 18 holes, President’s Reserve. In 2012, Mike purchased the Danner family’s share to become sole owner of Hermitage Golf Properties, Inc.
Mike has been active in the golf operation and management business for more than 45 years, also serving in a variety of PGA capacities: Chapter President, Board member, and President of the Tennessee PGA. Mike has spoken at Chapter meetings across the state on numerous occasions especially regarding the Grow the Game initiative and the PGA’s program development. Mike assisted in initiating the Grow the Game Program in the Tennessee PGA section and represented the Tennessee Section at the National 20/20 Conference. Mike has served on several national PGA committees, including the committee who developed the PGA Profit Share that distributed profits from PGA National to PGA sections across the country.
Mike’s family was awarded the Jack Nicklaus Awards by the National Golf Foundation in 1993. This recognition was earned because of the total family involvement in a multitude of golf areas: club professionals, course ownership, PGA Board memberships, development of the Tennessee boy’s and girl’s state championships, two USGA Jr. championships, seven women’s state championships, one men’s state championship, four women’s senior state championship and especially Mike’s claim to fame, 1958 Runner-Up in the 3rd Flight of the Old Hickory Country Club Caddie Tournament. In 2010, Mike was awarded the Distinguished Career award by the PGA.
Mike is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he played on the University golf team. He and his wife, Barbara, of 50+ years live in Old Hickory, Tenn., with their 2 dogs and have one son, Drew, a financial controller for Bridgestone, and daughter, Ashley Cottrell, who currently serves as president of the Hermitage Golf Properties, Inc.
President of Hermitage Golf Course Properties and Corporate Sales
Ashley Eller-Cottrell is no stranger to the game of golf. Growing up in Old Hickory, TN, she spent her days playing golf and swimming as a young kid at the country club where her father was the head pro. After graduating from the University of Alabama in Public Relations and Marketing, she came back to Nashville to pursue her career. She then took a job in Los Angeles, CA, where she met her husband, David, and they decided to make the move back to Nashville to be close to family. She took a job with her father, Mike Eller, who built and owns Hermitage Golf Course, as director of tournament and corporate sales. She is currently the president of Hermitage Golf Course's 36-hole championship course and facility.
Ashley and David have three children, Carter, Henry, and Anne Michael, along with 2 dogs, Swiper and Martha. You can see the kids and dogs at the course on a daily basis.
Bob Schultz was born and raised in Old Hickory, TN. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and was the first employee hired by Hermitage Golf Course. He has been the Superintendent for over 30 years. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, biking and boating with his wife Susan and daughters, Abby and Katie.
Director of Food & Beverage
David has been with The Hermitage Golf Course for more than 12 years as the Director of Food and Beverage. David is a graduate of the Culinary Apprenticeship at The Opryland Hotel. After graduation, David worked in Munich, Germany, for a six month internship at the 3 star Le Gourmet and Shwarzwalder. David also spent five years in the motion picture catering industry where he catered for movies, TV, commercials and videos. Some of the productions he catered for included GI Jane, The Green Mile, JAG and Practical Magic. David moved back to Tennessee in 2001 where he helped open the kitchen at The Country Music Hall of Fame.
When not at work David enjoys spending time with his wife, Ashley, and their three kids Carter, Henry and Anne Michael. He especially enjoys backpacking, camping and sailing with Mike.
Chris Pierce, PGA
Director of Golf
Chris Pierce was born in Nashville and raised in a suburb of the city, Hermitage, very close to HGC. He prepped at a private school in the same vicinity. After college, he tried his hand at mini tours in the southern United States for a few years before joining HGC full time in 2012. Although he bears numerous responsibilities in the pro shop, you may know him best as "Golf shop, this is Chris" over on TikTok.
He has one brother, Jay, and in his spare time he trades out his golf clubs for a football and assists in coaching a local high school football team.
Chris and his wife, Catlyn, a speech pathologist, live just outside Nashville with their children Ivy and Tucker, and their dog, Wrigley.
Director of InstructionCole, a Nashville native, is an assistant Golf professional, golf instructor as well as leads the Junior Golf Programs at the Hermitage Golf Course. Since graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2015, he has been involved in the golf industry as both an instructor and golf professional in the middle Tennessee area. Cole’s passion for helping others reach their desired goals is used to assist players of any skill level to grow on and off of the course. His goal is to utilize golf as a way to positively impact the lives of others by instilling life enhancing values as well as promoting the enjoyment gained from a well struck golf shot! Offering both adult and junior clinics as well as Captain of the HGC PGA Jr. League, Cole welcomes the whole family to join us on property to improve their game all season long.
Casen Burwell, PGA
Head Golf Professional
Casen Burwell was born and raised in Orange County, California. Moving to Nashville in January 2020 with his girlfriend Nichole and their three dogs, (Bam-Bam, Birdie, and Bogey), Casen is excited to be the newest PGA Golf Professional at the Hermitage Golf Course. After college baseball, Casen found golf and competed professionally on the Re/Max Long drive tour for five years. After completing his Class A PGA, he worked for the ClubCorp Company the last 10 years as a First Assistant and Head Golf Professional.
Email Casen for your next golf lesson.
Golf ProfessionalHayden Piskie, a lifelong native of Middle Tennessee, is thrilled to be continuing his journey in growing the game of golf at Hermitage Golf Course.Hayden was born and raised in Franklin, TN. He went to school in Nashville at Christ Presbyterian Academy. While at CPA, Hayden started playing competitive golf in middle school. He continued playing all the way through high school, both for his school and on what is now the Sneds Tour. From there, Hayden went on to continue his schooling at The University of Tennessee.Hayden has a strong passion and drive to develop golfers of all skill levels. During his time at Golf House Tennessee in Franklin, Hayden had a hand in developing hundreds of junior golfers from all over the state as a part of the Tennessee Golf Foundation’s junior golf programs. Hayden was also an Assistant Instructor in the PGA HOPE Program at Golf House TN. This program introduces the game of golf to military Veterans with disabilities.On his off days, Hayden enjoys watching the Tennessee Vols and Titans play football, riding motorcycles, and teaching the game of golf.
Alphonso Ashford, PGA
Golf Professional, Head Assistant
Alphonso Ashford started his golf career at Clear Creek Golf Course in 2000, as First Assistant and Tournament Director. In 2003, he became the First Assistant at Gordon Lakes Golf Course in Augusta, GA. After a short period away from golf, he began his journey into junior golf as the Program Director and Head Golf Professional at The First Tee of Augusta. After seven years of service to the Augusta chapter, he moved to become the Director of Golf and Head Golf Professional of The First Tee of Nashville. With the Tennessee chapter’s ever growing footprint and acquisition of the VinnyLinks Golf Course, his role expanded to Director of Golf/Outreach/and Special Events and LPGA USGA Girls Golf. Alphonso has also taught Life and Golf Skills Academies at universities like Wake Forrest, University of Reno Nevada, University of Virginia, Bose State, San Diego State, and Michigan State. He also served on several National First Tee Programming committees, judge for national participant opportunities, and as assistant men’s and women’s at historic Fisk University. Alphonso is a member of the PGA and loves playing the game. If you don’t see him in the shop, then you will more than likely find him on the course or on the range. He is married to Allison and they have two daughters, Courtney and Alexis. They also have five grandchildren and both enjoy hanging out with their two dogs Minnie (Yorkie) and Pepper (Welsh Terroir). During football season you will see him sporting his beloved Cowboy gear!
Assistant Golf Professional
Avery Panni was born and raised in Ooltewah, TN. He started his golf career at Ooltewah High School. His love for the game moved him from Ooltewah to the Nashville area where he now resides. He has helped coach the PGA Jr. league here at Hermitage for the last two seasons. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf and fishing. He also enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves, Tennessee Volunteers, and the Nashville Predators.
Kimmy WatkinsKimmy’s love of golf and clothing naturally lead her into a career as a golf buyer. A Nashville native, she spent eight years at Vanderbilt Legends Club, and Golf Galaxy for seven years prior. In addition to golf, she enjoys yoga, hiking, and volunteer work for Waves of Grace.
Steve was born in the Bay area of California. He is a culinary graduate major in classical French and has been baking for 26 years. He also received a nutrition degree from the University of Florida. Steve has worked in the following elite Nashville restaurants: Sunset Grill, Boundry, Mad Platter and Basantes. Steve is married and father to two sons and a beautiful granddaughter.
Director of Marketing
Born in Kentucky, Courtney grew up around farms, horses, and right down the road from a golf course. Her illustrious junior golf career never took off (perhaps it was due to spending too much time chatting with her friends instead of focusing on the game), although she did win one tournament. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in Public Relations, she made her move to Nashville. Eller cut her teeth at a national PR firm where she spent 12 years providing strategic account planning, client communications and campaign implementation for a variety of industries including sports, food, healthcare, automotive and alternative energy.
When not working, Courtney and her husband Drew run their four children to activities and spend as much time as possible at the golf course.
Front of House ManagerCourtney Bunch grew up in Fayetteville, AR (Woo Pig!) and moved to Nashville in 2019. She went to Southern Arkansas University and double majored in Biology and Early Childhood Education. She worked in restaurants and bars all through college and the industry stole her heart. She bartended downtown on Broadway, then moved to becoming the VIP Host & Bartender at Virgin Hotels Nashville. As Front of House Manager, Courtney oversees the operations of Food & Beverage with Hickory Sticks Grill, all private events, beverage carts, and our Snack Shack. Courtney has a deep passion for people and elevating spaces.When Courtney’s not at work, she’s reading, hiking with her dog, or cheering on her Hogs!
Director Of Special Events & Cottage Sales
Raised in the small town of Tecumseh, Michigan, Lexie brings a fresh and vibrant energy to Hermitage Golf Course as the Director of Special Events and Cottage Sales. A proud alumna of Central Michigan University, she holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Communication and Event Management, laying the foundation for her journey into the world of event planning. Her passion for crafting extraordinary moments shines through in every aspect of her work. As she puts it, "As soon as the events industry exposed me to weddings, there was no going back to just ordinary.”
She shares her everyday adventures with her best friend, Logan, who might just convert her into a Hermitage Golf Course client one day – a twist of fate she playfully laughs about. At home, Lexie is warmly accompanied by Charlie, her small fluffy white dog whose breed might be unpronounceable but proudly holds the title of the second softest dog breed. He may even accompany us on your site tour to feel for yourself! Recently making the move to Nashville from the Carolinas, Lexie's infectious passion and commitment to making every moment special, is your trusted guide in alleviating your stressors and transforming your event into an unforgettable and seamless experience.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
- Maya Angelou