GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The tagline that follows the "Tip from a Pro" you see on television or read in a golf magazine is a familiar one; something like, "See your local PGA Professional for more details." As clichéd as it may sound, no truer statement may have ever been coined in the wonderful world of golf: When it comes to getting the most out of your game and your love for it, there is no better person to turn to than a PGA professional.
Still, even the most seasoned of PGA golf professionals started further down the food chain: collecting golf balls under fire on a hot driving range or long hours at a busy bag drop, while also doing the study and training required in the process — not to mention continuing to hone the playing skills that must be achieved before the journey can ever begin.
The Carolinas Section of the Professional Golfers' Association (CPGA) is the largest of the PGA's 41 sections. With nearly one-third of the CPGA's nearly 2,000 members serving as assistant professionals and apprentices, its Assistants' Association subsequently is held up as a standard bearer. Three years ago, several CPGA assistants began to re-invigorate its program to help promote the efforts of these hard-working men and women who will one day be the leaders of the golf industry.
As former CPGA Class A professional and now a multi-line sales representative for The Golf Shop of Wake Forest, Dave Davis remembers working as an assistant professional while rising up the ranks. "These are the next wave of head pros making buying decisions and the front-line guys doing the club repair which is an important revenue stream for the golf shop and them personally," Davis said. "Golf is very much a networking and relationship business and the assistants and apprentices need to understand where they best fit within the industry and the clubs."
According to Mike Whitenack, CPGA senior tournament official who spearheaded the organization's rebirth, the Assistants' Association membership has continued to grow steadily with 137 members in 2013. With support the past two years of sponsors Davis and Jason O'Briant — also of The Golf Shop of Wake Forest — the Association offered a successful tournament program consisting of eight to 10 events a year. The monthly competitions featured both individual stroke play events and pro-pro events.
The Association plans to add more career development opportunities to align with its mission statement, which reads: "The Assistants' Association is a subsidiary of the Carolinas PGA Section. Our purpose is to prepare golf professionals for future success as PGA Members. The goal of our Association is to elevate the standards of CPGA Assistant Professionals through mentoring, networking, and promoting the game of golf. We will accomplish this by providing leadership, educational opportunities, tournament competitions, and building personal relationships amongst Assistant Professionals and the community."
"We are constantly planting seeds and providing building blocks for careers of the assistants and apprentices," said Brian Stewart, the 2012 CPGA Assistant of the Year. "It is important to provide more educational opportunities to help advance careers professionally and also within the section and national organization moving forward. There is no reason that we can't have a bigger section association than the Metropolitan or Mid-Atlantic and become a more viable extension of the Carolinas PGA."
The Association held its First Annual Fall Meeting in November at Trump National Golf Club outside Charlotte, electing its officers for 2014, which include President: Kyle Gregory, of Orangeburg Country Club in Orangeburg, S.C; Vice President: Chris Hensler, of Trump National in Mooresville, N.C.; Secretary: Justin Mathers of Raintree Country Club in Charlotte, N.C.; Tournament Chairman: Erick Fowler of St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C.; and Honorary President: Brian Stewart of Old Tabby Links in Okatie, S.C.
For the past two years, the Assistants' Association's designated charity was the Folds of Honor Foundation to which the Association presented checks for $1,000 in 2012 and $1,300 in 2013 via the donation of a portion of every tournament entry. The Association is currently exploring additional charities to support in 2014.
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 2,000 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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