My name is Sean Murray, and I am a young PGA of Canada golf professional. I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently work in Calgary, Alberta.
During the cold Canadian winter there’s a lot of downtime, and it’s a great opportunity to grow professionally. Whether it’s reading books, watching instructional videos, making your own instructional videos, visiting year-round facilities to shadow others, build your brand, attend seminars or write articles for blogs, it all goes a long way for your development.
And that’s a segue into this piece. I figured I would write the top 5 things I’ve learned in my first three years as on the job.
1. You have to be passionate
I haven’t met one person in my short career that said they got into the golf business to make a fortune. We all love what we do, and I think you won’t go very far in this industry if you don’t. Being a golf professional means you’re going to work long hours during the summer, not do a whole lot during the long, cold Canadian winters and not get paid a lot for it. I truly believe in the cliche, “If you love what you do, you don’t have to work a day in your life.”
Very early on in my first year, I met a couple golf professionals who told me not to jump into this profession if I loved the game because I wound wind up hating it. Several complained about the money they make. It’s clear their passion is gone. They’re content where they are, with what they earn and have probably staying at the same job for the last five, 10, 15 years.
I’ve seen it first-hand, and I truly believe the more passion you have for the game and to succeed, the more you earn. I have met many golf professionals who are always continuing to learn, grow and still have that passion for the business. Coincidentally, those are the guys who are working at the top clubs and making a very good living.
2. Put yourself out there
Starting out as an apprentice or CFM (Candidate for Membership), I would urge anyone to get involed within your golf course and your professional section. Members and fellow professionals notice what you do at your course and what you do at events put on by the section. This is a great way to get to know your peers and potential future employers. Usually the local section will put on many events where you can volunteer a couple of hours teaching lessons. Not only is this a great chance to make an impression on your peers, it is also a great chance to learn from others, improve your knowledge and to meet potential clients.
Play in local tournaments, even if you know the chances of you placing is low. Even though I am a CPGA member, I am not as good as I would like to be. But, I always try to play in at least 3-5 tournaments per year to put myself out there and network with a couple of fellow professionals. The guy you’re playing with is going to remember or judge you if you don’t shoot in the low 70s. There is a greater chance he remembers you if you act like a baby about it, swear and throw clubs. Yes, playing poorly sucks but, I guarantee that if you smile, talk to your group, ask how things are and shake their hands, you will be remembered positively no matter what you shoot.
My last employer knew I wasn’t going to go out there and win three tournaments, but they did say during the interview how impressed they were with me. That said, shooting low scores can definitely help you find potential jobs. Having the title of Player of the Year could definitely bring some clients your way.
3. Educate yourself
Educational opportunities are absolutely everywhere. Your sectional office has resources, typically online, for professional development. They’ll have anything from mechanics of the golf swing, branding and course mapping. These articles are done by some of the best professionals in the industry, but it’s incumbent upon you to take advantage of them!
Get on social media and follow the best golf professionals. I’ve learned more from Twitter, Instagram and YouTube than I can ever imagine.
A lot of PGA of America sections have educational seminars that they film and eventually put it on YouTube for everyone to watch. These speakers are some of the top-rated instructors in the world, such as Chuck Cook and Butch Harmon.
Some of the most successful golf professionals in the world share their content and findings and post their own instructional videos on their websites which can help you grow as an instructor. A lot of the time they spring debates or bring up questions to which they all share their opinion. This is a great way to learn and to see where the best instructors are at or what they think. The best thing about this content is that it is absolutely free.
Pick up a book, you hear this every time from the best instructors. They read everything they get their hands on. Even if you disagree with what they’re saying, you can still learn a lot. And you don’t always have to read about the golf swing. It can be on psychology, learning acquisition, branding and leadership. All of these will help you become a better golf professional.
Ask the top instructors in your region if you can spend a couple of hours shadowing their lessons. There is a reason why these guys are where they are today. There is always something to learn from someone, even if it’s not on the swing. It can be how they present information, how they set up their lesson tee, their appearence or many other little things. People want to help you. There hasn’t been a time where I emailed a golf pro and get turned down.
A quote I live by is, “Continue to move forward, or you’re going to get left behind.”
4. Know your career options
Just because you’re a golf professional doesn’t mean you have to become a head golf professional at a club or a course. You have many different paths you can take during your career in the golf industry. You can become a sales rep, a general manager, a Director of Golf, retail manager, a member services manager and varying different kinds of golf professional roles. They can all be very rewarding. Explore all your options, as you may enjoy or have more passion for one job than another.
5. Find the right place to work
My 11th grad industrial tech teacher once said, “As an apprentice, you only learn as much as your much as your employer.”
You have a responsibility to take time to educate yourself, and that includes being a sponge for knowledge. When you believe you can’t learn anymore from the people around you, don’t be afraid to move on. Your mentor wants to see you succeed and move on to bigger and better things.
Before you apply for a position, research the facility and its professional staff. After all, your future employer will research you before you are hired. Why shouldn’t you do the same? Research their website and see what their calendar looks like. Do they have a lot of member events? Do they have a separate page promoting their instructors? What kind of practice facility do they have? How big is their junior program? What’s the pro shop like? These are all very important questions that you can simply get from looking at their website.
It’s also important not to burn the bridges you’ve built as your career develops. Remember, your past employers are going to be a great asset to you down the road when you apply at other clubs. A simple text, email or call asking how they’re doing goes a long way.