GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Today, Michael Cooper, PGA, is the general manager at Harbour Pointe Golf Club in New Bern, N.C. But not too long ago he was just a young high school graduate trying to plan a career path in the golf industry.
Cooper eventually entered one of America's 20 Professional Golf Management University Programs (also known as PGM schools), which are designed to help provide entrée into the realm of real-world golf in the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA). It is a high-motivation, high-reward, plenty-of-opportunities-for-long-term success kind of career path.
The PGM is a true educational program - one designed to prepare college students for a variety of employment opportunities in the golf industry. The program is a four-and-a-half to five-year curriculum for aspiring PGA Professionals looking to combine their golf education with their overall one.
Each year, five sanctioned universities throughout the Carolinas PGA Section - Clemson, N.C. State, Campbell, Coastal Carolina and Methodist - provide participants with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the golf industry through extensive classroom studies and internship experience.
Most of those who graduate go on to successful careers in golf — and all are guaranteed the opportunity to at least try their hand. A graduate of Clemson University's PGM School located in Clemson, S.C., Cooper knows the inner workings and the external benefits of the program as well as anyone.
"I was accepted into the PGM programs at Clemson, N.C. State, Methodist, and Florida State," says Cooper, a native of Richmond, Va. "After visiting Clemson, I knew that was the school I was supposed to attend. I loved the small-college town, with big-time sports and outstanding academics."
While at Clemson, Cooper and his fellow classmates were required to complete 16 hours of internship (cooperative education) as well as PGA certification so that they graduated ready to be elected as Class A PGA golf professionals. He also had the opportunity to dual major in Business Management and Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
According to Paige Cribb, PGA, the director of student support for the PGM program at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., the PGA of America dictates the PGA portion of the program. Thus, the curriculum at one university is the same across the board. The differences are within the student majors, the campus locations and the size and scope of the schools.
Meanwhile, PGM students at Coastal Carolina major in subjects such as accounting, economics, finance, marketing, management or resort tourism.
"Parents especially like the fact the student is getting an excellent education, it is not just golf," said Cribb. "That is definitely one of our distinguishing factors."
Another distinguishing feature of the Clemson PGM program is its emphasis on the "business" of golf.
During the students' final semester, they work with director Rick Lucas and national golf consultant Jim Keegan on a semester-long case study. Students take a struggling golf facility and work through a series of steps to re-work a new business model for it. They look at market demographics, revenue generation, marketing strategy, expense management, capital improvements and various other aspects of the facility to put together a final presentation.
At the end of the semester, the class presents their recommendations to the facility owners — an ideal opportunity for students to learn all aspects of facility management and golf property valuation.
North Carolina State University's PGM program in Raleigh, N.C., is designed to teach its students how to combine the best practices for managing the business of golf with the best stewardship of natural resources.
With the recent development of the Arnold Palmer-designed Lonnie Poole Golf Course positioned on the southernmost portion of the university's Centennial Campus, the program now has a research and training facility to serve as a focal point to help provide students the skills to succeed as managers and instructors in an evolving golf industry.
"One of the other things that is unique about the N.C. State program is that the degree is a BS in Professional Golf Management," says program director Robb Wade, PGA. "The other schools offer a degree in business or marketing or some other major with a concentration in Professional Golf Management. The benefit for us is that having a stand-alone degree program allows us to add or modify course offerings based on the industry and the demand that we see."
The PGM core requirements at N.C. State include several courses to be taken by all students in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, as well as specific courses required for all PGM majors such as Turfgrass Management, Food and Beverage Management and Golf Course Architecture.
Keith Hills Golf Club next to Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., meanwhile, is where you'll see even more future PGA professionals climbing the ladders of their intended profession. The 27-hole layout certainly helps form the ideal spawning ground for golf education. Campbell's expert staff of PGA professionals and faculty at the university's school of business prides itself on shaping golf's future professionals.
"Though I started playing the game too late to become a college golfer, I knew I wanted to be in the golf business," says Brett Schneggenburger, a former Campbell PGA Golf Management student from Winston-Salem, now a PGA assistant golf professional at Keith Hills. "It was a no-brainer for me."
Classroom activities at Campbell give the students a broad base of knowledge for their career goals - leading to important skills such as strong customer relations. Playing proficiency is also monitored, and PGM students have the opportunity to play in tournaments every weekend. But that's only the beginning.
"I feel everyone who goes through the program knows how to be a professional," says Schneggenburger. "The golf business is bigger than a lot of people think. There are so many aspects of the business you can get into. What I like most about the program, however, are the internship opportunities that come your way. The classroom work helps prepare you, but the on-the-job training and outside work experiences really prepare you for a future in golf. We have students working at many of the top courses around the nation and the world."
The third PGA Golf Management program in North Carolina is located on the campus of Methodist University in Fayetteville. This innovative program leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration or Marketing with a concentration in PGA Golf Management. The Methodist University Golf Club is unique in that it is the only exclusively private practice facility and 18-hole golf course reserved solely for PGM students.
The success rate for Methodist graduates is remarkably high. Many have found positions across the country at top green-grass facilities as well as many of the world's leading club manufacturing companies. The lessons learned and skills developed in the program have even found graduates crossing over into high-profile businesses outside the golf industry.
About the Carolinas PGA Section
Since its inception in 1923, the Carolinas PGA Section has been committed to nurturing and improving the quality of the game for the thousands of golfers using its member facilities. Now the largest of the PGA's 41 sections, the Carolinas PGA Section of the Professional Golfers' Association boasts nearly 1,900 professional members and represents more than 800 golf facilities within North and South Carolina as well as portions of southern Virginia. PGA Professionals are responsible for conducting a variety of golf-related functions which include human resource management, golf shop merchandising, golf instruction, tournament operations, junior golf programs, growth of the game initiatives, golf club repair, administering the rules, public relations, and much more. www.Carolinas.PGA.com
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