BOARDMAN, Ohio – When Jonah Karzmer was a kid, he spent much of his free time teeing off at what is now Squaw Creek-Avalon Golf and Country Club in Vienna. Now, he hits the links when he can at The Lake Club in Poland. In between his years golfing as a pastime, he was captain of Youngstown State University’s men’s golf team.
Now, that lifetime of experience is being poured into his newest venture: The Bunker, a golf-oriented entertainment space at Southern Park Mall. Karzmer expects it to open next year.
The Bunker will join several entertainment venues at the former site of Sears. It will feature Bogey’s Bar and Grill, the Ben Curtis Golf Academy and 12 golf simulators.
The 36,000 square-foot venue will overlook the DeBartolo Commons, the mall’s athletic and entertainment green space under construction.
“We have a collaboration with Bogey’s Bar and Grill – they’ll do all our food and beverage. We’ll have a membership component and we’ll have, from a golf standpoint, 12 simulators throughout the center, eight of them in the main entertainment area,” Karzmer said. “Then we have a dedicated practice facility with my old college teammate Ben Curtis, who played on the PGA Tour for a while.”
Karzmer outlined his plans Nov. 4 before the Youngstown Rotary Club.
For the last 15 months, he said he has worked with mall owner Washington Prime Group to develop the project. Between Karzmer and the building owner’s investments, the project has cost about $3 million, he said.
“I’ve been involved with the local golf community for a while, and we’ve needed an indoor golf center for quite some time,” Karzmer said. “When the mall redevelopment project came to life a couple years ago, I thought that would be a nice option.”
Karzmer is a member of the Boardman High School Athletic Hall of Fame, noted for his work on area courses. After his time as a Spartan, he joined the Kent State University men’s golf program. He subsequently transferred to Youngstown State University.
Curtis and Karzmer were teammates at Kent State. Curtis, a Columbus native, has won four PGA Tour events, including the 2003 Open Championship, shooting a four-round, one-under par 283 to beat Thomas Bjorn by a stroke.
For Karzmer, The Bunker is a return to working in the golf industry. He was a golf professional for a couple area courses, providing advice to the grounds staff and giving lessons to players.
The job wasn’t to Karzmer’s liking, however.
In 2014, he started The Karzmer Insurance Agency with his brother, Justin. The Karzmer Insurance Agency began as a property and casualty agency, but recently merged with the Kilpatrick Co. and Yerian Insurance Co. in Canfield, creating the Karzmer Kilpatrick and Yerian Group.
Karzmer said his golf career helped develop his composure and ability to self reflect, which aided in the development of his insurance agency.
“There’s a lot of qualities I think you learn in golf and as a golf pro in terms of building a relationship with members, kind of similar to building relationships with clients and communications skills,” Karzmer said. “I feel like the skill set I learned through the golf industry helped make that transition easier.”
He said his connections to Youngstown’s tight-knit golf community helped develop his idea for The Bunker. He learned about business dealings and got to pick the brains of the members of the courses. He also thought about tools he wished he had while starting his career, and wanted to provide the same opportunity for the next generation of area golfers.
“I hope over time we help grow the game of golf from high school into college,” he said.
Pictured: When it opens next year at Southern Park Mall, The Bunker will feature 12 golf simulators, a golf academy and a full-service restaurant, Bogey’s Bar and Grill.