Students Play Important Role in Successful Tournaments

RBC Heritage Classic Logo A man named David Thomas once said about volunteerism that “Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.” And we couldn’t agree more. The truth is this: an unselfish action doesn’t mean that a person won’t benefit from having helped; it means that personal gain was not their motivation. To students at the Professional Golfers Career College volunteering is an invaluable part of their time here; volunteering is something they do well, and do often.

Routinely, students across all of our campuses serve as integral pieces in the successful execution of golf events like the: PGA Merchandising Show: Demo Days, RBC Heritage Classic, Clubs for Kids, Through Kyle's Eyes Foundation Annual Golf Tournament and a number of different Wounded Warrior events, to name a few. There are dozens of volunteer opportunities at each campus every semester, and it is not uncommon to see a volunteer roster that boasts anywhere from a few students to over a hundred at any given time, and depending on the size of event; like the RBC Heritage Classic, where 114 students helped with setup, registration, and take down.

Take for example the Give Kids the World Village, a 70-acre non-profit storybook resort located near central Florida, and a number of beloved attractions, where children with life threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations. Joanie Johansson, Psychology teacher at PGCC Orlando, takes her freshman to visit the village every semester and it has become something of a tradition to put on a benefit tournament for the organization.

Give Kids The World LogoJohansson recalls that “When Erick Dietrich said he’d put on a tournament, I had no idea what we were in for. We had about 100 golfers and he did a wonderful job.” Or Chris White, who took the helm another year, “Chris did an incredible job.” Johansson gushes. “Some of our students volunteer there on a regular basis; one of our graduates even brings his wife now” She beams.

Or how about the PGA Merchandising Show: Demo Days? Organized by Orlando’s Director of Golf, Roger Masterson, this year 74 golf college volunteers were support staff to over 8,000 PGA professionals and insiders. “It was challenging but fun” notes Masterson, “It was really nice getting to see the students using things they’d learned in school, in action.” The volunteer staff, comprised of students from every grade level, held positions all across the 25 acre, 360 degree driving range had their hands full, but kept the event on point.

“We got feedback from OCN that of many volunteers at the event that we stepped up and performed above and beyond” Masterson recalls, “I saw a lot of smiles on student’s faces when they were doing jobs that were less than desirable.” Laughing, “They were just so excited by the fact that they were that close to that many important people in the industry, getting to help them and interact with them.”

Through Kyle's Eyes LogoFans of golf might know the name Kyle Lograsso; he is one of fewer than 300 kids in the United States who are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year. At just 9 years old, he has a highly unusual gift; a near perfect golf swing. The 9 year old golf prodigy has never had a lesson in his life and because of his natural talent, and love for the game, he has been able to raise awareness of the rare cancer that threatened his life a few short years ago by forming the Through Kyle’s Eyes Foundation. His foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and funding (they’ve already raised in excess of $60,000) for research towards an eventual cure for retinoblastoma.

Putting on a tournament is no easy feat and since learning of Kyle’s story, the Professional Golfers Career College has been committed to helping the foundation. Armed with a ready supply of professional, eager, knowledgeable students who are honored to help Kyle’s cause, the golf college is well represented by the volunteer staff who help keep the tournament running smoothly.

Through Kyle's Eyes LogoPGCC Temecula's Dean of Students, Jim Wilkinson, had a few words to share about the mutual benefits of volunteer experiences like any of the ones listed above. He shared that "Volunteering gives our students a hands on opportunity to see how things work behind the scenes; they see the inner workings and some decide where they’re going to focus their career based on their experiences at a tournament."

But he knows that there are greater benefits to the students than having another fun day on the course."You get a good feeling when you help anybody, whatever the cause." he continues "There's a good feeling about working towards a shared goal, whether you're raising money or calling attention to a cause, like the Wounded Warrior Project. They walk away feeling that they've helped somebody."

You see, students get more than just the joy of a job well done. In the course of these events, they occupy any and every role that needs filling, gaining priceless practical experience, and leaving the tournaments, organizations, and people, better for having been there.

Champions Tournament Director A Regular at PGCC Orlando

USGA Logo Gene Smith is the Tournament Director for the Champions Tour, and he is also an expert on the rules of golf. After being in the business for 42 years, that’s exactly what you might expect of him. Difficult as it may be to believe, everything that can possibly happen during the course of your golf game…he can make a ruling on it based on 34 simple rules. Admittedly, there are subheadings and addendums, but still; how can 34 rules cover everything?

Gene Smith often finds himself at the Professional Golfers Career College Orlando campus explaining exactly this.

The USGA rules book goes through revisions every four years and with its most recent incarnation being published this year, Gene shares some of his expertise on rules of the game, how to get where you’re going in golf, and why he loves swinging by the golf college and talking with the students. “When I’m talking to the students I try to bring the rules to life, to give them real world examples. After 42 years of doing this I’m still learning” Smith shares. “I used to teach USGA Rules of Golf workshops, now I just attend them. Golf rules are a living, breathing thing.” He continues, “Every time I go to one I learn something else. When you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on it, that’s when you’ve got to get your nose in the book again.”

Without question, all of his time spent studying and his love for the game makes him and the students surprisingly simpatico. “I like to ask the class ‘How many of you want to be GM’s, or head golf pro’s at your club?’ because as a GM or Head Pro you wear a lot of hats, and having a wide base knowledge of golf is essential.” Smith continues “I love just opening it up to questions, just having them fire at me” he laughs “most of them just want to know how they can get my job.”

One of his jobs is to keep a close eye on the game during tournament play, not that there’s a lot of pressure in the moment. “We generally have enough time to think about a ruling we’re going to make to make sure we get it right.” And to ensure maximum accuracy, he’s not alone out there “There’s usually 6 or 7 of us out there so if one of us goes brain dead on a ruling we can radio in for help.” So what happens when they do finally decide? Not a whole lot. “Time is not of the essence, there have been times that we have had to call the USGA and inform a player 4 holes later what the deal is with one of his shots. It’s unusual, but it can happen.”

PGCC LogoWorking closely with players in crucial moments can be very exciting, but is it still that thrilling when you’re stuck being the bearer of bad news? “We hardly ever have calls contested. We have the book to back us up. If we say something will cost a 1 or 2 stroke penalty, we can point to the book and show them.” Surely this is a welcome relief in sports, where referees often have to double as verbal punching bags when a player is displeased. “Golf is a gentleman’s game, it’s one of the reasons I like to be around it. Golfers are class individuals. We don’t have boorish type personalities you can find in other sports. That just doesn’t happen, especially in professional golf.”

Walking the course during tournaments, rubbing elbows with legendary athletes…he’s got a great gig, but it definitely did not come overnight. 42 years ago Gene Smith finished his tour with the USMC and the next day he went out and got a job at Bay Hill Golf Club. “I got out of the Marines on March 10th, March 11th I went out to eight different clubs in Orlando asking for a job. They all said ‘No’ except for number 8. That was Bay Hill; they said ‘Yes’.”

Having exposure to such a positive and energetic force as Gene can be a key element in a student’s success, it gives them all the opportunity to see that success in the golf industry is real, and they are well on their way.

“I like to tell students that if you make up your mind to do something, just go do it” Concluding with what he believes is the key to his, and everybody’s success. “Find something you’re passionate about and then find a way to earn a living doing it. I know I’m lucky. I’ve lived my dream for 42 years, and they can too.”

Welcome Summer 2012 Freshmen

PGCC Logo This week marks the first week of school for our Summer 2012 Freshman class. While advice is traditionally offered as commencement is underway, it’s not a bad idea to offer a few words as the 16 months sets off to its start because, believe it or not, it will fly by. One of the basic tenets at the Professional Golfers Career College is that “Attitude is Everything”, but what exactly does this mean?

According to Bryan Barth, Executive Director of PGCC Hilton Head, this means: “You're always going to get out of PGCC what you put into it.” Continuing, “Students who do this volunteer and learn…and they succeed without fail.” His knowledge comes from first-hand experience he gained while attending PGCC from 2004 to 2005.

Eric Wofford, Executive Director of PGCC Orlando, also attended the golf college from 2007 to 2008, and he seconds Barth’s sentiments. “I like to tell students to look at their time here as a 16 month interview. We are not a traditional school where you can show up for class and skate through. You arrive on time, dress professionally, participate in your classes…if student’s just try to put their best foot forward every day, imagine what they can get out of their time here.” Reaffirming his point he shares that “As a student I saw this, and now as an E.D. I see this, when a student has this mindset, people take notice, everybody thinks ‘Wow. This guy is good.’ And we know that that student is prepared for wherever they are going.”

It’s no surprise that Barth and Wofford share the same sentiment about how to succeed; both graduated from PGCC Temecula, and studied under Jim ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson, PGCC Temecula’s Dean of Students, and a legendary fixture around campus.

If you ask Wilkie what advice he has to offer incoming freshmen, his words are simple and, unsurprisingly, similar to the advice above. “I want students to realize that this is their time to take advantage of all of the experience they have here.” Adding that “There are 24 hours in your day, you’re only in class for four of those hours; take advantage, ask questions. The best players I’ve seen are the players that ask the most questions, they’re always learning something.”