"The First 90 Days" by Crooked Stick GC's Tony Pancake

by Brian Dobak
January 9, 2011

Tony Pancake is the Director of Golf at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. He was the Indiana Sections 2009 Golf Professional of the Year as well as the Kentucky Sections 1992 Golf Professional of the Year when he was HP at Valhalla GC. A list of his other awards that reflect his leadership ability include a Bill Strausbaugh Award, Junior Golf Leader of the Year, Horton Smith Award, and Merchandiser of the Year award. Exclusive for PIFG and its readers, Tony offers up some great perspective for assistant professionals on transitioning into a new Head Professional position.


In my 23 years as a Head Golf Professional I have had the privilege of working at four private clubs. Each was different in terms of culture, membership and expectations. Your first few months on the job are critical to establishing your creditability with the Club and how you are perceived by the membership. First impressions are difficult to change so if you start off on the right track, you’ll give yourself a great opportunity for long term success. Based on my experience, here are some ideas for you to consider as you prioritize your first 90 days.

Build Relationships with your Members/Customers

Golfers enjoy having a personal relationship with the Head Golf Professional so reach out to them with personal calls, emails, meetings, lunch, etc. Every opportunity you have to personally meet/interact with a member is important. Also develop a system for memorizing all the names. It can be difficult if you don’t have a plan.

Organize Your Team

You cannot do it by yourself so immediately you need to recruit, hire and train your staff. The operation should reflect your vision so it’s imperative that you set the standard and communicate it to your staff. Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility as it will engage your staff at a higher level and will free you up to spend time with your membership.

Get to Know the Staff Members in Other Departments

Take the time to reach out to the other employees of the Club. They have been around and can share some institutional knowledge about the Club that will help you and you also want their support as the membership will be asking them about you.

Develop Your Programs

Going into a new job you should have a general plan for your various programs like Junior Golf, Ladies Golf, Merchandising, Instruction Program, Caddie Program, etc. but each Club is a little different and you’ll want to tailor your programs to fit the needs and expectations of the membership.

Financial Details

In today’s market the financial aspects of a club’s operation is at the top of the list in terms of importance. I encourage you to gain a quick understanding of the operating budgets of the club, membership, payroll, etc. If you can have a positive impact on the financial aspect of the operation, then the leadership will be more likely to trust you with more responsibility. Finding a balance between the financial needs of the operation and providing a quality experience is a challenge you will have throughout your career.

Energy and Attention for Your Family

Maybe the most important thing you can do during your first 90 days on the job is to make sure your family is handling the transition well. You may be moving to a new city and it’s easy for you to focus on your job but neglect the fact that your spouse is in a new area, just left friends or relatives, and your kids are in new schools. Make sure you are saving enough time and energy each day to let them know how important they are to you. The excitement of a new job will wear off quickly if life at home is not going well.

My last piece of advice is to have fun and enjoy your new opportunity! It is the result of many hours of hard work and dedication.