William Davenport grew up in Lake Highlands, graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 1989 and attended Texas A&M University. He married his high school sweetheart, Lynn Strawn, and they moved back to the neighborhood after finishing college. His son, Jack, and daughter, Lily, followed in his Aggie footsteps, while his third son, Wilson, is a sophomore at LHHS. Davenport is the chief financial officer of Topgolf Entertainment Group.
What is your job at Topgolf?
I joined the company in 2013 as the CFO, and we have a much bigger company today than we did back then. I oversee the accounting department, finance department, legal department and our global supply chain.
What is the Topgolf culture?
It’s great. That was one of the things that attracted me to the company in the first place. It had a really cool culture, but also, I wanted to join a company in the early stages of growth so I could be a part of defining that culture. I was really fortunate to work for Brinker International for 13 years. They just had a fabulous culture, so I saw how powerful culture can be if used the right way. When we came to Topgolf, it was a lot of like-minded individuals that saw the power of having a great culture, so it’s fun. It’s loose. It’s kind of the “work hard, play hard” mentality. When I started, we had nine venues; today we have 58, and we are a much more complex business than we were back then. We want to have an open-door mentality. My office is glass; everything is out in the open. We want to respect people and help them realize their growth potential in a fun way.
Why do you think people like Topgolf?
Because it’s fun and inclusive. If you think about us as golf, golf is obviously very intimidating. It’s something that might be expensive. Myself, for example, I didn’t go to the original Topgolf for many years in Dallas because I’m not a golfer. I thought it was just about golf. It wasn’t until I was introduced to it that I realized it’s not just about golf. It’s about entertainment. It’s about having fun. We do feel like we are transforming the game of golf by making it more fun, more approachable. We know that over half of our guests tell us that their first time to play golf is by playing at a Topgolf, so we are helping the game of golf, but we really see ourselves as entertainment, and it’s much broader than that. For example, I had my daughter’s 13-year-old birthday party at Topgolf. None of the girls play golf. It was December, and it was cold, but they had a great time. When you go to Topgolf, you can see how kids and adults, golfers, non-golfers, everybody is there to have a good time. I think what makes us unique is that it’s a social engagement experience, so we connect people.
What might people not know about the company?
If you’re from Lake Highlands, you probably only know the Park Lane venue, which is one of the first ones we built in the U.S., back in 2008. The Lake Highlands community has been incredibly supportive of it. But we’re much bigger than that. We focus on bringing technology and entertainment together with hospitality in lots of different formats. We have our Toptracer business, which is a company we acquired in 2013. If you watch golf on TV, it’s the trace of the ball that you see, so it makes broadcast golf a lot more interesting. And now we’re taking that technology, and we’re putting it in driving ranges around the world. We’re gamifying the experience in driving ranges and making it much more fun and inviting. The other business we have is Swing Suites. The Double Tree Hotel [on North Central Expressway] has one of our installations, so we do casinos, hotels, arenas, office buildings. This is a way that we’ve taken golf-simulator technology that another company makes, and we put our brand and our games on top of it. It’s a multi-sport simulator, so you can play dodgeball, soccer or baseball. Basically, we license that technology to all kinds of hospitality firms to attract more guests to their venues. Then we have international business. We are open in Australia. We’re going to open in Dubai [United Arab Emirates] and Monterrey [Mexico]. We have a media business too. We have an office in San Francisco that started with a video game. It’s the No. 1 realistic golf game on your phone called World Golf Tour.
Why do you make Lake Highlands home?
I love being near the lake; we live close to Flag Pole Hill, and I love being able to take our dog for a walk or run down at the lake. You feel like you’re in a small town while you’re still in the middle of Dallas. I think that’s unique, and that’s special, and there’s a community feel around Lake Highlands that you don’t get in other parts of the city or the country. It’s been a great place for us to raise our kids.