ORLANDO, FLA.—To the arguments, professional or con, for sure people coming into the World Golf Corridor of Fame, I provide a darkish horse candidate: Dr. Robert Ewigleben. President of Michigan’s Ferris State College from 1971 to 1984, Ewigleben (pronounced AY-wuh-glay-bin) raced sailboats, performed aggressive bridge, flew airplanes and, sure, was a scratch golfer. However his actual contribution to the greengrass lifestyle was his founding, in 1975, of the world’s first skilled golf administration diploma program. 4 a long time later, roughly 1,900 Ferris State PGM graduates handle nation golf equipment, give golf classes, function professional outlets, run resorts, and lead tech startups all over the world. Ewigleben, who died in 2019 on the age of 91, stands out as the fashionable golf economic system’s founding father.
By no means heard of him? Me neither.
Till yesterday, once I wandered into an space of the Orange Nation Conference Heart referred to as The Profession Zone. This back-wall neighborhood of fresh-faced faculty children and world-weary golf executives is the place PGA Present veterans go to seek out expertise for his or her golf mills. This yr, 18 universities exhibited below a “PGM Universities” banner, the everyday sales space being a desk for brochures, an informational backboard (“Festus Faculty, House of the Sardonic Sod Cutters”) and from two to 5 college students in enterprise apparel, every extra wholesome-looking than the final.
“Head professionals come by on the lookout for workers,” mentioned Kevin Odell, a College of Maryland Jap Shore PGM alum at the moment serving as director of his faculty’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Heart. It’s a well-recognized ritual for Odell, who desires to be a golf membership normal supervisor. “I used to be taking part in highschool golf when College reps beginning exhibiting up at my tournaments,” he mentioned. In search of the following Tiger Woods? Nope. In search of Callaway Golf’s gross sales and advertising director, circa 2038. “What’s engaging about Jap Shore is the power to play on Division I males’s and ladies’s groups. We’re additionally the one traditionally black College with a PGM program.”
Nobody appeared too disturbed by press reviews characterizing “membership professional” as one of many worst jobs on the earth—a thankless grind of 80-hour weeks below the unforgiving gaze of membership members, with little time to show and nearly no alternative to play the sport they used to like. (The youngsters on the Clemson College stand had been the one ones to trace at bother in paradise. “Our faculty has discontinued its program,” considered one of them mentioned, “so now we’re simply networking and discovering jobs.”)
The positivity might be blamed on youth and idealism. “I grew up on a small-town golf course and had a inexperienced in my yard,” mentioned Nebraska’s Ian Brandt, a tall, slender teenager with a profitable smile. “I had Division II gives as a participant, nevertheless it wasn’t one thing I noticed as a future.” The Cornhusker at his facet, Chase Largen, additionally began with sport, however quickly realized—and right here he grinned—“that I wasn’t nearly as good as I believed.” And why be down, with entry-level openings aplenty and common salaries for full-time head professionals inching above $100,000?
“That is the primary time we’ve had a sales space on the PGA Present,” mentioned Ashley Darling, a senior recruiter for business large Troon Golf, which manages greater than 725 programs all over the world. Troon held a “PGM Welcome Occasion” on Tuesday, educating 180 college students about internships and profession alternatives. “We have now 32,000 workers and about 3,000 jobs on our profession board at any given time,” Darling mentioned. “These children are the following wave within the golf business, and we need to be part of that.”
Internships are required parts of the PGM packages. College students serve three, six, and seven-month internships on their method to a bachelor of science diploma and, in the event that they go their checks, PGA membership. On the Penn State sales space, a happy Charlie Gendron mentioned, “I’ll be doing my stage 2 internship this summer season on the Nation Membership of Brookline,” clearly conscious that the storied U.S. Open and Ryder Cup venue is a plum project. Nebraska senior Paul Deeter appeared equally happy, having realized that his stage 3 internship at Denver’s Columbine Nation Membership would result in a everlasting place there.
“Shifting round, you be taught a lot,” mentioned Ferris State sophomore Owen Flaherty. “A few of us had the power to play faculty golf—it’s good to have an 8 handicap or higher to get in this system—however most of us are simply in love with golf. We love instructing or need to be administrators of golf or need to go company and work for a producer.” He beamed. “I need to run a golf course.”
Standing other than the fresh-faced fans, at a tall desk in the midst of the Profession Zone, was a gray-haired man in a black swimsuit—a USGA volunteer, however a Fed in actual life. Robert Blaney is the Phoenix, Ariz., district director for america Small Enterprise Administration, so he in all probability knew of the PGA of America’s information exhibiting PGM College enrollments falling roughly fifty p.c previously 20 years, to lower than 5,000 college students. “The packages are nonetheless crucial,” he insisted. “Execs used to get into the PGA as a result of they might play golf. However golf is a enterprise, and your golf store needs to be a revenue middle. And for that”—he stared throughout the ground on the Ferris State sales space— “you want a enterprise schooling.”
Shades of Robert Ewigleben.