Director of USGA SW Region Talks Turf

Pat Gross Being a student at PGCC means you get to benefit from one of the greatest perks of our vast network of relationships…spectacular guest speakers. Southern California-based Patrick Gross is an agronomist, but he’s more than that, he’s also the director of the USGA’s Southwest Region, and he has made it a tradition to speak at PGCC Temecula for the last three semesters, with another visit slated for spring 2013.

It might not seem like the most rewarding work, to create something that is going to be trampled and marred repeatedly, but turf specialists see the higher purpose and resign their work to this fate. Famous golfers make headlines and big money because they play well, but beyond their instincts, skill and talent, one must also consider that these guys are playing on the best courses around the world. Looking at it from that perspective, turf specialists and agronomists are the unsung heroes of golf because their success is very much affected by the elements, and golfers better than anybody understand this. As a man who performs visits with the USGA at over 130 facilities each year, Pat Gross understands this.

According to Dennis Orsborn, instructor for PGCC Temecula’s Turf Management course, “USGA agronomists are employed to help managers of golf facilities provide the best possible playing fields and sound operations; they assist with the science of turf growing, and the business practices of golf maintenance operations.” He continues, “They will directly assist the golf course superintendent and provide Turf Advisory Services for the Greens Committee and management.”

Pat GrossMr. Orsborn brings Pat out to speak because what better person for students to talk to than the guy who’s been at the helm at Pebble Beach prepping the course for the U.S. Open in 2010? “I have known of Pat for more than 30 years. I have also called upon Pat to visit and consult on several properties that I was responsible for in the past.” Guest speakers of his caliber always make for exciting classroom energy. “Pat was enthusiastic to come and share his experience and to help explain the role USGA plays in keeping golf healthy. He is well known speaker and golf turf expert, and he is renowned in our industry.”

Gross, armed with a power point on his experiences, always encourages comments and questions along the way. Orsborn continues, “It is always a pleasure! Pat is obviously a passionate and enthusiastic Ambassador for the game, and students are eager to interact and ask questions relating to his involvement and encounters in the industry.” Orsborn concludes that, “It’s exciting to have such a renowned and well connected individual in the golfing world.”

Pat spent time reviewing what the USGA does to prepare and manage a U.S. Open site such as The Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco, but Orsborn feels that “The best part of Pat's presentation is a countdown from 1 to 10 the most frequently asked questions by greens committees and course management. The number one, of course, is ‘Why do they have to aerate the greens just when they are getting good?’ So, why do they have to aerate the greens just when they are getting good? Maybe you should swing by the campus next spring, catch Pat in the halls and ask him.

PGCC Recognized as 2013 "Military Friendly School"

PGCC Logo 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 Stars

PGCC Logo The 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. PGCC Logo

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!”

PGCC LogoPicca, 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 PGCC Logo 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.”