Golf Professionals don’t get old, they just lose their………..(relevance). There’s a very old joke that has a different punch line. The point is, Golf Professionals do get old in the same way as everybody else. But do they?
Being a Head Professional at a golf club is a very unique position and with it comes a very unique way of life. A young Golf Professional packs his/her golf equipment and heads out for a stint at playing the TOUR for a few weeks. At the door they tell their children. “Daddy has to be away for a week or two. He’s going to play golf. Be a good boy for your mom.” Talk about a ‘twister.’ You’re going to work but you’re going to play golf!
We all know the Resident or Head Professional doesn’t play golf for a living. Their job is to provide an atmosphere where the golfers enjoy their day. It’s political, marketing, merchandising, managing, advertising, teaching, fitting clubs, conducting events, record keeping, playing golf etc. It comes with a very low pay grade in the formative years to an average income in the better years and throughout their career, extremely long hours. It comes with something else rarely thought of: relevance.
A typical country club has approximately 500 to 700 members but only one Golf Professional. If a small town only has one country club, there is only one Golf Professional and in a town of 50,000 with two or three country clubs, there are only 2 or 3 Golf Professionals. Usually only one is the highest profile. This means that anytime a service club decides to use golf as a vehicle to raise money or someone needs a Golf Professional to teach a First Tee Program, there is only one person out of 50,000 called upon. In fact, within a small radius, the Golf Professional can become a mini celebrity.
It’s a demanding life but rewarding. People do ‘things’ for you that make your life easier, and it gets very easy to accept those ‘things.’ It’s difficult to give them up when you retire. Not only are you older, your golf game is not quite as sharp, and possibly health becomes an issue but one of the hardest to give up is relevance.
Once you can no longer participate in the high-profile events, are no longer in demand to speak to groups on behalf of the Club or organize outings with certain groups, you become irrelevant. You are no longer a buyer, so sales reps no longer drop off a small gift or your once large purchases of inventory cease so you have to buy your own equipment, no more free travel on promo vacations. In short, things dry up on your 23,726th day or the day after your 65th birthday. No more phone calls, only joke emails etc.
Upon retirement, a Golf Professional plays a bit more golf than before but not a lot and one thing happens for sure. They lose touch with their contacts, the people they saw every day in the Golf Shop and their fellow Golf Professionals. In a very short time, the people they competed against, taught lessons with and served on committees with simply drift away.
The PGA of Canada has recognized this as an opportunity. The Board of Directors and CEO Kevin Thistle have approved a project to address this situation and I’m excited to report that I’ll be spearheading the initiative. I’m a Life Member, Master Professional, Zone Past President, PGA of Canada Hall of Fame Class of 2020 member, PGA of Ontario Hall of Fame Charter Class member, founder of multiple PGA initiatives and very close to being a 60-year PGA of Canada member.
Now I’m retired and can honestly say that I have experienced relevance and irrelevance firsthand. The opportunity with this initiative is to recognize that over 40% of the PGA of Canada is over the age of 50 years and either will need or do need to be considered and that will be done through our new program called the Alumni Association.
It will consist of coordinating representatives in every Zone (basically Provinces) across the country to first seek out all the small events currently organized. There are many small groups getting together in a mini-tour format, some only meet for lunch and talk golf and others simply send emails, but hundreds are forgotten. They are on fixed incomes so nationally oriented events don’t work and travel is a problem. They struggle with their game, and they live in remote areas. The result is a loss of contact and huge feelings of irrelevance.
The Alumni Association is the only one of its kind! No other PGA has one and we have only one goal; to reunite long-time friendships while providing a format to feel like a Golf Professional. We will coordinate a pathway to awaken memories, provide ways to reach out spend time together and even play a bit of golf. Guys my age don’t play golf to shoot a low score; we play golf to enjoy an iced tea after the round and talk about the ole’ days. When fun times are circulated, results of events are recorded, news about ‘Where are they now’ is written and obituaries are posted, the memories will flow, and the stories will begin. Friends who haven’t seen each other for years will read about each other, pick-up the phone and make a game. When they do, that’s news! Photos of those times are of interest. Someone who once served on the PGA of Canada Board of Directors representing a western Zone will read about someone who served representing Quebec. Or past competitors will see tournament results and remember ‘when.’
In time, we will organize groups of Ambassadors who will help stimulate action in their Zone including visits to elderly PGA of Canada members in long term care.
It might sound romantic, and it is but there are over 1800 members in the PGA of Canada who will now have the chance to once again feel relevant.