"Valuable Lessons - As You Strive for Success" by Bob Mulcahy

January 25, 2012

For this installment, PIFG welcomes Bob Mulcahy, President & CEO of Golf Business Network (GBN, formerly known as AMF Golf Management). GBN was established by veteran golf professionals to meet the needs of a rapidly changing industry. It's founding principles are simple: Even the most accomplished need ongoing guidance and support to deliver greater value to their clubs. Today GBN has more than 1,000 golf professionals among it's members. The company has expanded it's mission to include career development services for Assistant Professionals who aspire to become Head Professionals. With a new year comes a new perspective. We hope you can learn from the perspective of Mr. Mulcahy as you begin 2012!


I was honored when Brian Dobak asked me to contribute to his website, Pay It Forward Golf. I admire Brian’s enthusiasm and dedication to our profession, so I was glad to participate. First and foremost, I have great empathy for Assistant Golf Professionals as you deal with the current industry landscape. Climbing the career ladder is far more difficult than it was just 10 years ago. The reasons are numerous:
  • Golf courses are contracting, compared to a decade ago new facilities were opening daily.
  • Rounds of golf are declining and people are leaving the game.
  • The job market is far more competitive and there are fewer jobs available.
But things are not all doom and gloom for the private club industry. Many leading clubs have re-tooled and re-worked their models to survive and succeed. Our leading Golf Professionals have learned to adapt and have become more valuable leaders for their clubs in this transition. They have thought outside the traditional box and will continue to be successful.

Success in our field may come down to one basic reality—You learn, so you can lead.

Your desire is to be the person who sets the vision, creates an atmosphere, inspires a staff to work hard and work together. To consistently do that you need to be constantly learning the nuances of golf operations and business in general. When your knowledge is continually increasing, you’re able to adapt. You have answers to the next problem on the horizon. You offer your point of view, you give direction, and people are glad to follow.

I had the great fortune to spend eight years with Bob Ross at Baltusrol Golf Club. He was the consummate Golf Professional and a person I admired every day. What he taught me is as relevant now as it was back then. Bob’s requirements of himself were as follows:
  • Always treat every member with a positive attitude and made them feel special in a genuine way.
  • Establish yourself as a great teacher of the game of golf to your students and a teacher of the game of life to your staff.
  • Personally fit people for golf equipment—Bob did this in an era when clubfitting barely existed on a formal basis.
  • Provide a golf program that is better every year than it was the previous year.
  • Never stay in the office when a member came into the golf shop—take every opportunity to have a personal interaction.
There is no question that Bob Ross was a huge influence in my professional development and I am forever grateful to him. I was fortunate to have other mentors through my career that instilled different values and attributes that I incorporated into my management philosophy. These include:
  • David Branon, whom I had the pleasure to work for over an eight-year period at Slazenger Golf. He had a tremendous passion for the Golf Professional that was second to none and a work ethic that made you envious. He made me realize that it is possible to follow your dreams as long you are passionate about those dreams. David was an idealist who believed anything was possible and usually had a way of making it happen. He was a true motivator of the people around him.
  • Geoff Gorman who was David’s partner, shared his passion, but had a different style and wanted to prove why things work and then build the best product possible. His work ethic matched David’s and my lesson from Geoff was that you can build your own style.
  • Bob and Andy Jones, both of whom I had the pleasure of working with at Slazenger. Bob Jones was the ultimate gentlemen. He showed me, a young sales rep, how to dress for success, how to treat a customer with respect, and how to handle yourself in difficult situations. I had the pleasure to work with Bob’s son Andy at Slazenger in some custom programs for my high-profile accounts. Andy is tireless worker who taught me the value of organization.
  • Jerry Pittman, under whom I worked for a season at Seminole Golf Club. We had so many memorable discussions about this industry and life’s trials and tribulations—talks I still reflect on. Jerry taught me how to be an organized businessman and how important financial decisions can be and how to think through those decisions.
All of my mentors were great leaders who exposed me to a range of leadership skills that I have tried to put into my own life. They also all possessed a strong work ethic that is imperative for success. For future success you need to learn how to be a leader. This comes through observing, asking questions of your mentors, and never losing that desire to be the best.

Recently, a young man came to the office for advice on whether or not he should pursue a career as a Golf Professional. I told him that if he was willing to work hard, had a passion for the game of golf, and understood that it takes time for advancement then he should wholeheartedly pursue a career as a Golf Professional. If you look at all the successful people in the world they share two common traits; one, a strong work ethic, and two, have an inner passion for what they do in life. They want to lead, and they do what’s necessary to be strong leaders. You can start that process by:
  • Learning and understanding how the Golf Professional brings value to the club on a daily basis. As you’re helping this leader to run a great program, understand why it is a great program so you can build your own vision.
  • Taking pride in your appearance and attitude on a daily basis. Today’s club members are keenly sensitive to any negativity, as they are coming to the club to escape their own problem-filled world. The stress of the current marketplace makes this more difficult but it is critically important for you “fake to make it” if necessary.
  • Striving to be the best player you can be and make it enjoyable for others to play with you. While it is not necessary be able to win events, it is imperative that you can make the game enjoyable for others.
  • Establishing yourself as a proficient instructor for all levels of players. Making the game enjoyable is the only way to keep people in the game, which is critical to member recruitment and member retention.
  • Developing a plan to track people you have met through your golf activities (member-guests, Pro-Ams, etc.). These may become valuable references in job searches in other parts of the country.
My advice to those of you who strive to be the best is to continue to work on these skills every day and you will realize your full potential. Golf Business Network is committed to providing the information and services that will assist in making you standout. You stand out by being supportive of your Golf Professional and striving each day to make the golf experience at your club the very best that it can be. Take advantage of this information and these services to build the case for why you are the best choice to run a club’s golf program.