A Look Inside the 1st Annual PGM University Intern Conference at Merion Golf Club

by Brian Dobak
August 6, 2011

When I first conceptualized the 1st Annual PGM Intern Conference, I kept in mind the fact that PGM Interns don't have a lot of opportunities to network with other interns from other schools. Secondly, when an intern leaves for his/her internship, their experience is generally isolated, meaning they're in their own world and their opportunity for knowledge is mainly isolated to their own experience. Meanwhile, there are dozens and dozens of other interns around them with their own isolated experiences. Thirdly, PGM University students are the future of our business. Each year, more and more are pumped into the system. So if we can catch these kids when they are young and have a positive and lasting impression on them, our business will be that much better down the road. With all of that said, I thought that if we can get these kids together in the same room and share what they are learning, their "big picture" will be come bigger and they will leave more networked, inspired, refreshed, and re-energized. And who knows, maybe a conference like this will push a button and change the way they think for the better.

On Thursday, July 28th, with the collective effort of myself, Brian Soulé and host professional Scott Nye, we staged the 1st Annual Professional Golf Management Intern Conference at Merion Golf Club. The idea behind it was to bring together area PGM interns for the purposes of networking, sharing their internship experiences, and best practices learned. On relatively short notice, the following attended the event:

-15 students from three PGM schools (Penn State, Clemson, Maryland Eastern Shore)
-The students represented clubs from Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Boston.
-Two PGM alumni students from Penn State and Clemson respectively
-Merion Golf Club Professional Staff of which 4 are Penn State PGM Alumni
-Executive Director of the Philadelphia Section PGA

The conference was a very dynamic program with each segment having it's own characteristics that were beneficial. It was shaped through three different formats that lent their own unique perspectives:

1.) Presentation
2.) Tour of the Merion GC Golf Operation
3.) Round Table Group Session


As Head Professional of Merion Golf Club, Scott has cultivated a wealth of knowledge in his experiences not only at Merion but his entire 26 year career as a golf professional. Scott treated his presentation as an opportunity to talk about what it takes to "make it" in the golf industry as a young professional. He related well with the students, allowed his staff to add to the discussion, and gave good, sound advice for "climbing the ladder" in the golf industry. Highlights of Scotts presentation are as follows:

"What is this industry all about?"

People! In his first year at Merion, Mr. Nye approximates he met 7,000 new people, and told multiple stories about how people he may have met even briefly have either influenced him or have been influenced by him throughout his years in the golf industry.

"How should I go about advancing in this business?"

Take small steps. Nobody takes "large leaps" in this business, but those who do all of the small steps well and are consistently excellent at their daily duties and interactions with people are the ones who get "big breaks" down the road.

"Do something new each year."

In order to be an excellent and rounded PGA professional, you must seek new opportunities every year. Complacency will kill a career, especially early on. If you try something new each year, especially from an educational standpoint, you will be come a well-rounded and valuable golf professional.

"What is the main purpose of a golf professional?"

To connect people. Golf is all about the interactions of the people involved in the sport, and by being a welcoming professional and by treating people as you would guests in your own home, you can create a culture at a golf facility that promotes the game and the interaction of great people. Most importantly, be real and genuine in your interactions. "Let people like you for who you are at your core."

"What should I expect as a young professional age 18-26?"

Out of college, you may not have the most appealing job responsibilities. Work hard, do the small steps well, and advance slowly up the ladder. The good jobs come to those with patience, perseverance, and a good work ethic.


The tour began with a walk down the 18th hole and up to it's green complex. The interns were able to catch a glimpse of the "Ben Hogan 1-iron" plaque in the fairway. Beginning the tour like this really gave them an opportunity to feel what Merion is all about and to see where history has been made. After the walk down 18, they proceeded into the golf shop, which hasn't changed since the 1960's. Again, the interns could feel the history and see how another golf shop is merchandised and displayed. We proceeded into the golf professional staff office area which has to be one of the better arrangements in the club business. Finally, the group was taken into the operations inventory room. Interns were able to see first-hand the volume of merchandise that Scott and his staff manage. In addition to their daily offering to the members, the staff has been merchandising U.S. Open apparel in preparation for the 2013 Open, thus offering another set of unique challenges and learning opportunities.


The conference culminated in the group session in which the interns were given an opportunity to share their internship experiences, operational best practices, and what they have learned. In their own tales, the following subjects were discussed:

-Attention to detail
-Leading by example
-Life perspective
-Handling difficult situations
-P.A.L.T. (Pride, Attitude, Leadership, Treating people the way you would want to be treated)
-Good old fashioned hard work
-Making sure members and guests are leaving the facility with smiles on their faces
-Traveling and doing internships in different regions, experiencing different cultures
-What they can expect to apply after they have graduated from the PGM Program


The golf business is tough and often times unforgiving. Many PGM students drop out of the program after their first internship, and there is nothing wrong with that, this business is not for everyone. Interns from across the region have worked hard this summer. Hopefully the 2011 PGM Intern Conference gave those that attended an opportunity to step back and reevaluate their goals. Through the conference, I believe the interns left more networked, informed, inspired, and re-energized, and those were the general purposes of the event. By seeing a place like Merion, hearing from someone like Scott, and networking with fellow peers in such a setting, maybe interns can more closely understand what is possible with hard work and dedication to the profession. The sky is the limit and as Scott said in his presentation, "Your success is in your hands".

"Excellence is...caring more than others think is wise, 
expecting more than others think is possible, 
risking more than others think is safe, 
dreaming more than others think is practical."