Should You Stay Or Should You Go?

July 19, 2010

Golf Business Network (GBN) provides online webinars, industry economic study tools, employment research, periodical newsletters, annual meetings, and personal feedback should you choose to reach out to them. In the following article from GBN's newsletter, GBN sheds light on an extremely important subject in our unique industry, a subject that all golf professionals encounter at some point in their career. We hope you can take a few tips from it.

We ask one of the most important questions that every Assistant Professional must wrestle with on their way to preparing for a Head Professional job: Should an assistant stay at one club and establish himself, or work at several different clubs before looking for a Head Pro job?

After surveying some of our members, it has been revealed that there are highly successful pros on both sides of this debate, but the majority seems to fall in the “more jobs is usually better” camp. These are extremely different philosophies and it is up to the individual assistant to know what will be best for him or her over the long haul, but our research did uncover key variables to be considered that should influence this decision. They are:

•Are you still learning?
•Is your attitude still fresh?
•Do you find yourself going through the motions a lot of days?
•Are your expectations for helping the operation grow as enthusiastic as the first day you started working at the club?
•Does your continued employment create a “clog” at the top?

The individual’s answers will help steer them down the better path for their unique situation. “The choice is completely based on the assistant’s desire and motivation to excel.” explains Sam Wiley, Head Pro at Wee Burn C.C. in Darien, CT. “No one Head Professional knows it all or is best in every facet of the job. I was fortunate to work for a PGA National Merchandiser of the Year, a National Teacher of the Year and a National Golf Professional of the Year. Taking attributes from each of these great pros has allowed me to be where I am today.”

What this really comes down to is professional growth. If you continue to grow in your current position, then it is possible to have a long tenure at one club. “I think assistants become complacent and want somebody to hand them a Head Pro job, but it just isn’t going to happen,” says Doug Mauch, Head Professional at Wheatley Hills G.C. “For me it helped tremendously to keep moving. My network grew quickly and learning from four head pros was essential in my learning process. It wasn’t so much my plan as it unfolded, but it worked out very well.”

“I think that Assistant Pros should move on after the third year at a facility,” agrees Jim Masserio, who was Head Professional at Aronimink G.C. near Philadelphia for 18 years. “By the fourth season most assistants become complacent and tend to give all the work they can to the new assistants and take the easier tasks for themselves. This can turn a good experience with the Head Professional into a negative situation.

“I understand that you may have good reasons to remain in a position long term. Your spouse may have a good job in the area or you may not be able to find a suitable position at another club, but no matter what the reason you should treat every year like the first if you want to stay longer term.”

Bruce Carson, Head Pro at Onwentsia near Chicago, has had Assistants go both routes and make it into Head Pro jobs, but he points out that, either way, you need to gain familiarity with the entire operation. Working at multiple facilities makes it a lot easier to fill in the gaps. “You’ve got to stay at least two years. One year assistants are never remembered,” says Wiley. “With the complexity of the job today staying four years at a club is certainly appropriate, but the assistant needs to ask for and take on more responsibility each year.”

“There is no doubt that experiencing different approaches to the critical elements of creating a great golf experience is important,” adds Bob Patton, Head Pro at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, SC. “However, there are certain clubs and pros that do such an outstanding job preparing assistants for that first Head Pro opportunity that it makes sense to work hard in that one spot. In the end, it comes down to open communication between the Head Pro and the Assistant to work together to determine which direction is going to provide the best route for each individual.”