Crooked Stick was a rewarding and fun place to work with great staff and awesome members. But this day would be memorable.
President George W Bush was coming to Indiana for a visit and a game of golf at Crooked Stick. Secret Service, dogs and advance planning are necessities whenever the President travels so the President’s visit was not a complete surprise. But when he actually arrived, it became real to all of us. President Bush was a real gentleman, made a point of asking us our names, introducing himself etc. As I led the President up to the men’s locker room, he asked me if the golf range was member’s only or could he hit a few balls before playing? I believe I replied “with all due respect, sir, you’re the President - you can do anything you like!” I think the Secret Service guy smirked at that comment.
Later on that day, one of my colleagues told me that one of our member’s kids had been hitting balls on the range beside the President. Breathless, the eight year old had run into the pro shop, and had excitedly exclaimed “I was hitting next to the President, George Washington!” Out of the mouth of babes!
It was an honor to host the President that day. As the President played the course, numerous members approached him for photo opportunities and he graciously gave his time and attention.
Memories that really stick out? - A tournament win? Shooting a course record 63?
Nope, Rascal Flatts were in town for a concert with opening act, Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish fame opening for them. As it turned out, Darius Rucker had a friend at Crooked Stick and had the opportunity of getting out for a round of golf beforehand. It was just my good fortune that, as circumstances unfolded, that I was able to play with Darius that day. During the round, he asked me if I was interested in coming to the concert that night and gave me 4 tickets. Super nice guy and really down to earth. With my boss and 2 other friends in tow we headed down to the concert but couldn’t figure our where our seats were. They were AA and all the rows seemed like single letters. As it turned out, AA was the front row - right in front of the stage! Not only did Darius give a shout out to his friends (us) at Crooked Stick, Rascal Flatts invited my boss at one point to join him for a couple verses from the song, “Open Road” - truly a highlight of his “performing” life lol!
An awesome benefit to working at private clubs are the members themselves. I cannot count the times that I was invited for dinner, given tickets to concerts, invited to sports events - even sitting in the owner’s box at times! Along the way, you learn a lot about member’s families and, as a teacher and coach of golf, you can make an important contribution to their upbringings. That was taken up a notch for me at Crooked Stick where the members really embrace their club professionals as part of their extended families.
Let me give you a great example on how the benefits of close relationships between professional staff and members can manifest themselves. One of our members was a physician and his wife was becoming increasingly frustrated with her golf game (which all of us do time to time!) I began a series of lessons with her and, by the end of a couple months, she was hitting the ball fine again. As is common in golfing families, satisfaction in their games seems to rub off on everything else and my member was especially happy with my help. Later that year, I passed out (feighted) at work and had to be admitted to the hospital with some brain swelling and other symptoms. The same physician went out of his way to look into my case and helped to conclude West Nile Virus as the cause.
As they say, Good deeds lead to other good deeds or What goes around, comes around!
Interested in becoming a golf professional? Well, unless you are shooting lights out (low 60s’) in tournament golf and have your game peak at the right times, you’ll likely be considering the club professional route. In the United States, there are various paths you can take to this goal but the most comprehensive is the Professional Golf Management (PGM) program. Most aspiring professionals will undertake this in conjunction with their undergraduate degree at a major university. It’s a rigorous program; in addition to all the courses you normally complete for a BA or BSc you take a full slate of PGA designed courses covering instruction, club fitting, agronomy, merchandising etc. Basically every aspect you might encounter at a golf course, facility or related company. Add to that 3 three month internships and a 6 month internship and a set of final exams. And a Player’s Ability Test, 36 holes where one generally has to score no more than 155. Sound daunting? It’s not as bad as it sounds as the PGM schools are staffed with outstanding instructors that really care about your success. If you are still interested contact the PGA of America (or the CPGA in Canada/Golf Canada) for more information or you can simply search online for PGM schools that are accredited by the PGA/CPGA.
I think it was my Dad that told me that one of his great joys as he got older was the acquisition of new skills, as random and unconnected as they might seem. While working full-time he took three semesters of Japanese, one semester of Mandarin and two semesters of French at a local community college. Then he added in two levels of the Master of Wine designation (the non-trade certificate levels) and the Canadian Securities course. Not for a degree or job but as general interest.
When it comes to golf, the broadening of your skill base can be equally useful. One skill that I learned and which turned out to be in demand was calligraphy. Designing tournament scoring boards with a bit of flair is fun, challenging and ultimately valued by members that want their event to look as professional as possible. (images sent separately)
Whether it’s languages, art or something really obscure, take the time to enjoy learning a new skill. You never know when they might come in handy.