PGCC Recognized as 2013 "Military Friendly School"If you caught wind of the recently released 2013 Military Friendly Schools list, which will be distributed in print and digital format to hundreds of thousands of active and former military personnel in early October, you will see it proudly displaying our name for the first time. The list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.
“A school’s inclusion on the 2013 list of Military Friendly Schools shows commitment to providing a supportive environment for military students,” said Sean Collins, Vice President at Victory Media, the organization behind the publication, and Director for G.I. Jobs. “As interest in education grows, we’re thrilled to provide the military community with transparent, world-class resources to assist in their search for schools.”
The criteria for inclusion incorporate a survey of over 3,000 actual student veterans. This feedback provides prospective military students with insight into the student veteran experience at particular institutions based on peer reviews from current students. To make it on the list, these schools have to have world-class programs and policies for student support on campus, academic accreditation, credit policies, flexibility, and other services to those who served.
In addition to awarding a full-ride scholarship opportunity at each campus to select veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project, one of the most important ways that PGCC helps veteran students is through its participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Established in 2008 as part of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program allows higher learning institutions to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, and the VA will match it, up to 50%.
If you do the math, this means that both the VA and PGCC team up to cover up to 50% of a student’s tuition and fees each, essentially absorbing up to half of the cost of tuition, as a way of giving back to those who have already given so much. So what does this mean exactly? It means that our students can potentially earn a degree at no cost. PGCC’s VA Coordinator, Ann Martin, feels that the golf college’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program is groundbreaking “It’s a voluntary thing for the school and this is the first year we’ve done it,” she continues “About 5% of our students in Temecula are veterans, so this program has a lot of potential to help them.”
Among the other services offered to our veteran students is an annual meeting with a local VA representative. Our local VA rep has made a tradition of visiting the campus annually to provide information about all of the programs in place to benefit every sphere of our student’s lives, from personal counseling and marriage counseling, to education and housing. The meeting is optional, and the response has been encouraging. PGCC Temecula’s Director of Admission, Gary Gilleon, a veteran and graduate of PGCC believes in the importance of access to this information, sharing that “If students choose to meet with the rep, they get info about PTSD, if there’s anything going on with their lives that the VA can help with, budgeting, buying a house, debt reduction, counseling…you name it.”
At first glance it might be tough to draw the connection but, PGCC is a unique institution ideally suited to veterans who are embarking on a second career, or forging a new path after their service. Gilleon continues “Our students are disciplined and focused, they know why they’re here and they enjoy being here. Going from the military to golf is an easy transition because even if they’ve never worked in the golf industry, there’s always the skill set that they bring with them; organization, people skills, confidence, presenting, leading, directing. It all translates very easily into the golf industry.”
International Students Double As Rising Golf StarsThe Professional Golfers Career College is known for educating the future leaders in the word of golf, but don’t be fooled; there are current leaders already among our student body. Take for example, Juan Echenique and Guido Vidotto. These 2 natives of Argentina have a deep seated love for golf, and they come by it honestly. Both Juan’s brother and Guido’s uncle are great players, in fact, Rafael Echenique, Juan’s brother, who is currently on the European Tour, represented Argentina in the 2009 World Cup, and competed in this year’s Open Championship.
Accomplished family aside, both Juan and Guido, a sophomore and a freshman, respectively, are extremely talented in their own right, and they’ve got events to back it up. In 2004 Juan participated in the World Golf Junior Optimist, finishing 35th; and in 2009 and 2010 Echenique was ranked the # 1 amateur golfer in the West / Central region of Argentina. Guido has competed internationally representing South America as a junior golfer, and 2011 was a huge year for him. In 2011, he became the Members Club Champion, and won two individual tournaments for the South/East Golf Federation Team, ranking 3rd…after only having played the game for 5 years.
Juan began playing when he was about six-years old, and Guido, while he’s only been at it for about five years, has tremendous natural skill, which has allowed him to sidestep some of those years. It’s clear that the boys love golf, and know where they their careers to go, which is why they opted to attend PGCC. Vidotto shared “I picked the game of golf little bit late, so to speak, just about 5 years ago. Last year I was offered to enter PGCC thru Bill Picca and, sincerely, the whole experience has been well beyond my expectations.”
In fact, both Guido and Juan began their journey here through Bill Picca, a golf professional and former faculty member at PGCC. After discovering the college through conversations with Picca, the boys eventually travelled over 8,000 miles to attend. According to Vidotto “This unique opportunity of studying business and golf at the same time is awesome; speaking in golfing terms, it is like scoring an eagle, and then a double-eagle back to back!”
Picca, and President and Founder of PGCC, Dr. Tim “Doc” Somerville, have a great affection for the two young golfers. Doc gushed, “These are just two of the greatest guys you’re ever going to meet. They’re so nice, just such good guys.” And Bill Picca couldn’t agree more, “These guys are nice, and they’re really, really good golfers!” Speaking about why he encouraged these students to travel thousands of miles to attend the golf college he says simply, “I had a dream like this as a kid, and I never had the opportunity. So I say to myself, ‘it would be selfish of me to have been able to come to the U.S. and become a golf professional, and not to give back to the game, or find a way to help kids who are out there right now dreaming the same way that I did.’”
Talking with the boys about their experience coming to PGCC, gratitude is the most prevalent sentiment that will color your conversation; actually, it will knock you over. Echenique shares wholeheartedly, “To be studying at PGCC is the most important and exciting life-changing experience of my golfing career. I do not have words to express my gratitude to Dr. Somerville, and the faculty and staff who constantly give me support and courage.”
It’s that last bit about courage that illuminates a major reality of their situation; they’re a long way from home. Sure, students go off to college far from home every year, but one could make an argument that traveling to an entirely different country and culture, requires a slightly more significant adjustment than mileage alone can account for. Guido Vidotto can attest to this, “It was quite a challenging situation for a young person like me to leave my family, my country and my friends to be part of a different culture. It was a little bit of a scary decision for me, but once I got to the college, Dr. Somerville, the staff, faculty and my classmates have made me feel like I’m at home.”
Faculty Spotlight on Randy Shannon“My proudest moments in golf are obtaining PGA membership, playing in 3 PGA TOUR events, receiving multiple awards throughout my career, and each and every day loving what I do as a career.”
To say that Randy Shannon has been in the golf business for a long time would be severely under appreciating quite how long that really is. “I always say that I began playing at 6, but didn’t get serious until I was 8” Shannon deadpans. If you trace it back, this means that his career began taking shape right around the 4th grade. “I began working in the golf industry in the 7th grade caddying, working the range and the bag room, and began competing in 7th or 8th grade.” His involvement in junior tournaments took place over his 3 month summer breaks, priming him for golf teams and eventually a spot in several events on the PGA Tour later in life.
As an educator, Randy can look back with true respect for the value of his great golf education, and where it took him. “My dad always played golf, and because he was a member at private clubs, I had access to really great instruction.” It is through his own golf education that he eventually found his way to the golf college. President and founder of PGCC, Dr. Tim “Doc” Somerville was an early educator of his at the San Diego Golf Academy. “Doc was my teacher, my coach, and now he’s my boss; but I don’t feel like I work for him, I feel like I work with him,” he continues “Doc and I go back 30 years, so coming to PGCC after having known him for so long, and from being a student of his, I knew what that meant, I knew what that said about this place.”
Over his 35 year career in operations, gathering his Class “A” PGA Member status along the way, he excelled in Private, Resort, and Public facility management. He assisted in 3 start-up golf facilities from inception and, quite enviably, has been the Head Golf Professional at Kapalua Golf Club in Maui, Hawaii, the Director of Golf at Broken Top Club in Bend, Oregon, and General Manager at Cross Creek Golf Club & Talega Golf Club in beautiful Southern California. This breadth of experience is an ideal foundation for the classes he instructs; Tournament Golf, Organization of Golf Tournaments, Golf Operations I, II & III and Career Planning. Over his three decades of service to the game he’s spent nine years as General Manager, fourteen years as Director of Golf/Head Professional and 14 years working in tournament operations for PGA Tour events, and he’s been the proud recipient of the PGA Merchandiser of the Year award four times, and the winner of the Horton Smith Award in the SCGA, Inland Empire chapter.
A resume like that makes it easy to see how he might be looking for a new challenge, having already travelled far in his chosen field. “After spending three decades in operations I saw this as an entirely new challenge. I didn’t know that when I first came here 3 years ago, but I found that out quickly.” Shannon continues, “Golf is a game where everybody can improve and what draws me to teaching is the joy of watching a golfer hit a great shot; I think I get more excited than they do!” he beams. “There is nothing like a well struck golf shot; you can’t mistake it.” So, as it turns out, moving from operations to instruction was a rather seamless transition for him. “Teaching here is immediately rewarding, it’s always changing. To see the future leaders show up here, wanting to learn, is a tremendously rewarding experience.” Continuing that “One of my favorite sayings is ‘you’re only as good as your last shot’ because you can never master this game. This is a game that requires lots of time and practice, not just physically but mentally as well.”
After his numerous accomplishments, one might think his next step could have been to tip his hat to his achievements and focus only on refining his own physical and mental game, but what is more important to him than that, is cultivating the future leaders in the world of golf, because they need expertise like his. “Our game is great because we have over 16,000 course choices in the United States alone.” He continues by sharing that “Other sports like baseball, football, basketball, tennis, you name it; they all play on identical fields. In golf there are so many variables, different kinds of turf, terrain, weather etc. You will never play the same course twice, and that makes golf a continually learning process.” And he ought to know.