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Inside Track: This Jill of all trades has plenty of drive
Debby Buck-DeJonge is targeting the country club and resort market for her newly developed energy bar.
“Medinah gave me the nod,” the Ada resident said happily in early December. That means her Birdie Bar Golf Energy Fuel snack bar will be sold at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., which was the venue of the 2012 Ryder Cup match in September. She’s actually received commitments from a number of clubs and resorts.
DeJonge describes herself as the founder, owner, chief bottle washer, staff and “Jill of All Trades” at GolfStarRx.com, which she launched to market her Birdie Bar.
She’s all that, and more. For many years, she helped her late husband, Dr. Robert DeJonge, run the Longevity Clinic on East Paris Avenue in Cascade Township.
She’s also done professional marketing; created comical photo greeting cards that were produced by Design Design in Grand Rapids and a board game (Rhyme Or Reason); and designed a line of T-shirts called RudeWear. She has been a volunteer for organizations fighting autism and Lyme disease. She is a horse owner and dressage rider and said she created a new event at the U.S. Dressage Federation show that combined golf and dressage.
She also makes public appearances as an anti-aging specialist.
“Suzanne Somers invited me to be on her show,” she said, referring to the former sit-com star who has a show dedicated to anti-aging, weight loss and women’s health.
These days, she’s traveling around the country promoting her Birdie Bar at golf trade shows and high-end resorts, such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
“I do events,” said DeJonge. One this summer was to benefit the Michigan Women’s Historical Center. Earlier this year, she spoke at the LifeThyme Natural Market on 6th Avenue in New York and also at Chicago Health Foods in the Loop. She has been interviewed on the “Dr. Mitch Total Health” show on SIRIUS/XM national radio.
DeJonge describes herself as “an anti-aging specialist with a focus on golf, energy and health.” Tall, tan and trim, it’s easy to see why she has long worked as a model and is a popular public speaker on women’s health issues and anti-aging.
DEBBY BUCK DEJONGE
In later years, she golfed frequently with her husband at Cascade Hills Country Club, and once won the longest drive contest at an outing at The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort. She still plays golf a lot, shooting a 38 on nine at Quail Ridge this year.
As a teen, she began doing modeling work locally, including work for advertisements used in national publications. Clients included WGRD, Amway, Kellogg’s and North American Van Lines. More recently she appeared on horseback in a marketing photo for a wine company owned by the widow of Rodney Dangerfield.
DeJonge attended GVSU, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 in language arts and education. While still in school, she landed her first job as head concierge at the new Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
“One day, Debby Boone (the singer-writer-actress) was walking through the lobby when she was mobbed by a crowd who were trying to steal her scarf. Without a single thought, I picked her up and toted her into the bell stand to safety,” said DeJonge.
When asked her age, DeJonge tells a story about her mother, who had a great sense of humor she evidently passed down to her daughter.
“She always told me, ‘If you tell your age, you’ll tell anything,’” she explained.
DeJonge is not a tell-all — but she did offer her philosophy on age. “There is real age and there is chronological age. My real age is much younger than my chronological age.”
She confessed she once “lied” to her husband: She said she was going shopping when actually she went to The Comedy Den in Grand Rapids, where she won a prize for her stand-up comedy routine. Later, she took her husband and some friends to the club, where they learned about her comedy career.
DeJonge revealed she is a “pie-baker descendant,” referring to her grandmother, a native of Denmark who ended up living in Greenville. She ran a restaurant and was “the best cook on the planet and the best pie baker.” DeJonge said her grandmother told her she had “gumption and stick-to-itiveness. You can’t buy it and don’t let anybody take it from you.”
With that family background and her high regard for healthy foods — particularly blueberries, an acclaimed antioxidant — DeJonge set to work to devise a recipe for a healthful snack bar for golfers. Her long experience playing golf made her aware of how rushed golfers can be to make their tee times. Too often, eating before playing means “grab and go,” she said, and the choices available are usually poor, like “nitrates on a bun. That would be a hot dog.”
She is not a vegetarian, however. “I eat a lot of protein. Nothing I would personally name, though,” she quipped.
The golf industry is fun to work in and different from any other, said DeJonge. “The level of respect is loftier — a good sand wedge loftier” than working at sales in other markets.
“I’m creating a niche where there hasn’t been one: golf, health and energy,” she said.
The Birdie Bar is her own recipe, consisting of organic brown rice syrup, dates, cashew butter, oats, chia seeds, buckwheat groats, brown rice protein, pea protein, lemon oil, dried blueberries and sea salt. And it’s gluten free — “which is huge,” she noted.
She named her original prototype for a healthful, golf-course snack the Par Bar.
“After a lot of thought, I came away thinking it sounds like I need to buy a vowel — it’s too rhyme-like. And after all, my competitive side got the better of me, which sends me shooting for the moon, the coveted hole-in-one. However, I love the sound of ‘birdie.’ Birdie Bar rolls off the tongue and gives golfers an automatic target for which to aim.”
DeJonge has contracted with a commercial bakery to produce her Birdie Bars, just as many nationally sold products, like Cracker Jacks, are made all over the country at various contract baking plants, even in Grand Rapids.
Get her going on some of America’s mass consumer habits, and DeJonge will soon have an audience chuckling.
“I try to educate people,” she said.
For example: “Don’t fall for air fresheners,” she said, mentioning a popular brand that plugs into an electrical outlet. “They’re really detrimental to your health,” adding, “You shouldn’t have things hanging in your car” from the rearview mirror, either.
Instead, she recommends making air freshener spray from hydrogen peroxide and water, “which won’t harm you.”
It turns out she’s not kidding: The EPA website has a page on air fresheners, noting they have four basic ingredients: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p-dichlorobenzene and aerosol propellants. Air fresheners are usually highly flammable and strong irritants, and solid fresheners “usually cause death if eaten by people or pets.”