Interview with the Founder of Pay It Forward Golf

August 23, 2010

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer and manages a successful column on the Bleacher Report. He also follows the PGA TOUR volunteering for its tournaments and working for CBS Sports, NBC Sports and The Golf Channel. Andy recently sat down with the founder and author of PIFG and got the inside scoop on one of the golf industries newest and hottest services to it's pro's. ________________________________________________________________________________

Brian, thank you for sitting down and giving us an inside perspective on PIFG. For starters, where did the Pay It Forward Golf concept originate?

If you’re asking about the very root of why it started, then it would have to be the following:

1.) My passion for the game of golf
2.) My passion for the business surrounding it
3.) My passion for helping others

Why is it called Pay It Forward Golf?

Some time ago, I was exchanging some emails with Joe Connerton, head golf professional at Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, Connecticut and he had briefly mentioned how as golf professionals we need to be “Paying It Forward” and it kind of stuck with me. When I was in the process of figuring out what my domain name would be for this website, I thought Pay It Forward Golf was perfect. The expression "pay it forward" is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.

Listen, we can’t truly pay back others in this business for their time, advice, references, etc. We can only say “thank you” so many times, and we can only send so many “thank you” note cards. We should no doubt express our great appreciation for the help we receive or the advice we get, but what we should really focus on is taking the advice and the knowledge we receive and actively paying it forward to the next person that is in need. That is Pay It Forward Golf.

Can you take me through the life of PIFG?

My interest in taking mentoring to a different level happened in late 2006. I thought there had been a noticeable increase in the rate of ineligible professionals as well as apprentice drop outs. I have a good friend that was an apprentice and would have been a true leader in this business, but he wasn’t so fortunate to be connected like so many are or have a solid group of mentors around him. Subsequently he dropped out and is doing great, however the golf profession lost a great one there.

By early 2007, I knew I wanted to do something online but I just didn’t know how to and I got really busy with a new job. In mid-2009, I got an urge to be more aggressive. I called a friend of mine who is a computer systems genius and asked him how I could inexpensively build a website. He pointed me in the direction of Drupal, an open source content management system that allows users to build their own website for free.

PIFG was born. But it started off slowly. Readers had to have a username and password, and I think the last thing someone wants these days is ANOTHER password to remember. Aesthetically, the website system wasn’t very flexible as well. So I looked elsewhere for options. For quite sometime, I had frequented Craig Kirchner’s “The Successful Pro Shop” blog. One day while reading his latest post, it struck me to try his website system, I quickly saw that on Blogger, you could do so much more, so much easier than with Drupal. Blogger background templates were aesthetically appealing and designing and maintaining the website is very user friendly. I’ve been on Blogger ever since. Where appropriate, what I have tried to do is to transform the website from a "blog" to an actual website. A lot of small changes here and there have gone into doing so.

What else inspired you to create something like PIFG?

When I read about Bob Ford having moved 30+ assistant professionals into head professional jobs, or Doug Steffen having moved 18, or Bruce Carson moving 19, Bruce Patterson moving 17, and they all say it’s their greatest accomplishment in the golf business, that’s pretty inspiring. It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in awards and recognition, but helping others is enduring. There is a great quote by Horace Greeley, an American newspaper editor from the 1800’s. He says, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings, but only one thing endures, and that is character”. Do you want to be recognized as the most “decorated” golf professional in the business, or do you want to go down as a pro who gave his career to helping others advance and succeed?

Tell me about the concept of involving others in the PIFG experience?

I like to write so PIFG gives me a reason to do that. Most of the articles are written entirely by me and a lot of them are based on questions I sought answers to as a young apprentice. Some of the articles are adapted from intriguing and inspiring content found on the internet or other publications. Some of the articles are based on subjects suggested to me by the readers themselves. Many of the articles are based on the knowledge of veteran golf professionals that I have asked to contribute.  So it's been fun. I make it pretty clear that PIFG has an open door policy and we always welcome ideas for articles. For example, I posted an article in November of 2010 that was suggested to me by an assistant golf professional at a very prominent club in East Hampton, New York. The subject is about how and why we should stay sharp as snowbird golf professionals.

What does “snowbird professional” mean?

Many assistant professionals, namely in the northeast, migrate to Florida or California, etc. in the winters to work on their games, play in tournaments, and work to continue to gain more experience. I did this for two winters. I vividly remember thinking, “If I’m going to stretch myself and be the best I can be, I have to go south, I can’t sit around and get snowed in all winter every winter”. It was the best thing I ever did for my career and more importantly my life.

Are you in competition with anyone?

No, I don’t believe so. The bottom line is that we should ALL be working together. The PGA, GBN, and PIFG can establish all of the programs we want and that's great, however real and truly effective mentoring begins and ends on the club level. It begins with the actual golf professionals on ground zero (club level) lending a hand and helping each other out. And I think that might be PIFG in a nutshell. I am an ordinary golf professional on ground zero just trying to lend a hand. I'll come home from work and I'll just write about something that happened or a situation I encountered at work that day or the day before. PIFG is not corporate by any stretch of the imagination and that might be why it works so well. Its real and it will never deviate from that.

What are some challenges that you perceive for PIFG?

I believe that from an outreach standpoint, our market is small and very specialized. If you think about it, our target market are golf professionals and there are about 29,000 PGA Professionals and apprentices. That is small. Theoretically, this website shouldn't work because of that, but PIFG is not for profit, we make no money whatsoever and no money is spent. So the small market is a small challenge. Our biggest challenge is probably gathering content, which for PIFG, is essentially drawing out the knowledge of golf professionals, whether its me encountering a situation and I feel like its appropriate to write about, or recruiting veteran professionals to share their knowledge. Believe it or not, but some people are not open to sharing their knowledge. They are open to it on the club level in their own golf shop, which is fantastic because as I said, that's where it begins, but some are not as comfortable on a medium such as this, and there is nothing wrong with that. PIFG is definitely a unique platform and it isn't for everyone from a contribution standpoint.    

Can you give an example of how far the Pay It Forward Golf model has reached out to the assistant golf professionals of the business?

For example, one of our readers, an assistant golf professional at a prominent club in Colorado, asked me if he could use some of our articles to put in his intern packets, policies & procedures manuals, and meetings. I thought that was pretty cool. Also, I will be helping out a PGA Section with their efforts in creating a mentoring website tailored to their section professionals.

What is the coolest thing that has happened for you through PIFG?

There have been some pretty cool moments or events. Some of them have to do with our partnerships. It's pretty cool when vendors contact us to get a place on the Preferred Vendors list. But the coolest thing is just the idea that maybe PIFG is working. Maybe it's helping assistant professionals, maybe even head professionals. With no barometer of success, I largely rely on the feedback I get from readers.

Why Pay It Forward Golf and why now?

The business as it is today is so dynamic relative to what it was 20 or 30 years ago. Now more than ever, the business calls for highly skilled, well rounded, business savvy golf professionals. Teaching is no longer about watching a student hit some balls and giving them some advice. Club-fitting is no longer about putting some lie tape on the sole or face tape on an iron and having them hit five shots. Golf fitness barely existed pre-2000. Merchandising is no longer about stocking your balls, tees, gloves, and shoes, and a few lines of shorts and shirts. Tournament operations is not what it was 20 years ago with regard to both technology and the demand for corporate golf groups. In today’s economic landscape, now more than ever we are being called upon to be better and more effective leaders and more efficient managers. I just think that we need more sources of guidance than ever before and it starts with mentoring.

What makes Pay It Forward Golf so unique?

What comes to mind first is the fact that it is authored by a real assistant professional in the field. It’s as real as it gets. I am no better than any anyone else, or more of an assistant golf professional than any other, my resume is nothing special and I have encountered hardship no more than any other golf professional in the business. The subjects written about are real. Some of them are straight from the gut and might be hard to take in, but that is the point – PIFG is real and as I said before, it will never deviate from that. Really what you see is the unadulterated, non-corporate-ized (I just made that word up) view of the our profession from a normal, hard working golf professional clawing to get ahead.

Why do you think PIFG has worked so well?

PIFG is on the level of assistant professionals. The PGA of America does some great things and they obviously have my support as I am involved with them,  but it is hard for us to relate to and take advantage of a mentor program established by the PGA. I know this because I am an assistant professional.  It is hard for us to relate to the PGA because of  its size. Because of the size, I believe there is a disconnect between national and the rank-and-file golf  professionals. If the  PGA is going to establish a mentor program, they need to somehow figure out a way to come down to our level. It needs to be a top-down relationship, not a bottom-up relationship. PIFG is successful because it is neither top-down or bottom-up, rather it is a "horizontal" or "lateral" relationship. PIFG is on the level of assistant professionals so they (and even head professionals) can relate to it with relative ease.

Any last words?

Like I said, there is an infinite amount of knowledge out there in our business, let alone any other business. One of PIFG’s initiatives is to “poke and prod” golf professionals and draw their valuable knowledge out. We need to be sharing our knowledge more openly and actively. It is argued by some that the fraternity that once was our profession is largely gone. Our profession has seemingly become a tug-of-war between “the haves and the have-not's”. It can be argued that the profession, because of its corporate nature, has become "every man for him/herself". There is a lot of apathy and passivity within the profession. We need to reverse this effect. We all need to get on the same page and start helping each other out and start sharing each others knowledge on a wide spread basis. Growing the game is certainly important, there is no question about that, but growing the PROFESSION is critical. When I say "growing" I don't mean the quantity of the professionals, what I mean is the QUALITY of the professionals. It starts now.

Brian, thanks for your time. Best of luck on PIFG.

More about Andy Reistetter:

Andy Reistetter authored a successful series called "Corporate Leadership: Inspired by the Game of Golf" that revolves around how PGA TOUR players, competition and the game of golf can be utilized inside corporations to dynamically develop corporate leadership and culture. Andy has also written two books - one on inspirational leadership called "The Approach" and the other on inspirational living called "Love, The Rest of My Life (TROML) & The Pursuit of Eternity." Both books are available by emailing