When General Hotels’ Director of Construction Robert “Bob” Armstrong appeared at the groundbreaking of the Hilton Garden Inn in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in October of 2020, the moment was of additional significance for the construction veteran. Armstrong wasn’t just familiar with the future site of the hotel and accompanying restaurant and bar, he grew up there.
Armstrong was raised in Jeffersonville; he’s a graduate of Jeffersonville High School where he played baseball, basketball, and football, and his father worked at the nearby former Indiana Army Ammunitions Plant 10 miles away.
At the Hilton groundbreaking, Armstrong ran into some familiar faces. “I saw some people I hadn’t seen in 30 years,” the director recalls. “I’m also fortunate to have two parents who are still alive, and it meant a lot to be able to have them there and be able to see what I do for a living in their own community.”
Fuzzy on the Details
It may not be home anymore, but Armstrong is helping bring 50 new jobs, a 144-room hotel, and a restaurant and bar to Jeffersonville with the added recognition and prestige of legendary PGA golfer Frank “Fuzzy” Zoeller (an Indiana native) as both a principal investor and namesake of Fuzzy’s the 15th Club. The 15th Club will dole out spirits and signature food options like fried bologna sandwiches and chipped beef gravy on toast—all Fuzzy’s favorite foods.
Not only was Armstrong getting a chance to build in his hometown, but the golf lover would also get to work with one of the legendary characters of the PGA. “Working with Fuzzy gave us the opportunity to create a signature experience with the 15th Club,” Armstrong says. “It really has the feel of a golf clubhouse, and I’m so excited for people to get inside.”
At the time of speaking, General Hotels was prepping a May 2022 opening of both the Hilton and restaurant. Armstrong was still dealing with furniture deliveries and putting the final touches on the space, like signed photographs and memorabilia from Zoeller’s own collection.
The Hilton Garden Inn isn’t Armstrong’s only project at present. The list of General Hotels projects is exhaustive as the company continues its Midwest builds along with expansion into Florida’s “Space Coast” and beyond.
A Coach by Nature
Since coming to General Hotels in January of 2020, Armstrong was able to make an immediate impact. Somehow, the director was able to deliver an 88-key Hampton Inn in Bedford, Indiana, on time and on budget, despite kicking off construction two months into the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s akin to a veteran pitcher suiting up for a new team and throwing a no-hitter his first day on the mound. The sports analogy is an apt one, considering the number of years Armstrong has spent coaching his daughters and son in multiple sports.
“Coaching is understanding how to get the players with different strengths to work as one unit,” Armstrong says. “In running a construction department, you have to know the players’ strengths and how their roles fit to strengthen the team. By knowing this and being able to work with them one-on-one and together, we can be a strong unit and have a successful project. My role is to ‘coach’ them through the process.”
Armstrong says that his door is always open, and he hosts biweekly meetings with all his teams to make sure that the organization is on the same page. He also meets individually with his project managers to talk through any issues and provide guidance and coaching. The director says he wants every person on his team to feel like a vital part of the process, no matter what the role.
That kind of communication is vital as General Hotels continues its move into Florida. The company is currently planning builds in Viera and Bradenton, Florida, and another hotel that just broke ground in Estero, Florida. The Viera build will feature a first for the General Hotels: a rooftop bar whose sixth-story view will overlook both a nearby baseball and softball complex and will provide an ideal vantage point for any shuttle launches at nearby Cape Canaveral.
It’s an exciting time for Armstrong, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s been building since he was in high school. The director is always in the office early, an hour or two before anyone else arrives. It’s the prime time for him to catch up and prepare for the day knowing there will be unexpected issues to address with staff, ownership, and subcontractors.
“Some days I feel like I’m the fireman putting out fires,” Armstrong says, laughing. “Other days I’m a [therapist]. But most days I’m just trying to be the coach, helping my team be successful.”
Fuzzy’s 15th Club
For those not well-versed in PGA lore, the new bar and restaurant—the 15th Club—connected to the Jeffersonville, Indiana-based Hilton may seem confusing.
Director of Construction Robert Armstrong shines a light on the etymology of Fuzzy’s 15th Club: During PGA legend Fuzzy Zoeller’s first round of golf at the prestigious Master’s Tournament, Zoeller asked hislong-time caddie, Jerry Beard, for his four-iron club. After a short pause, Beard said, “Boss, which one do you want? We have two in the bag.”
Knowing golfers are only allowed 14 clubs in the bag during matches, Zoeller called over a tournament official to explain the issue of the duplicate club. While his honesty ended in a four-stroke penalty that took him out of contention for the year, Zoeller took it in stride and that fateful “15th Club” is now on display at the restaurant.