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PGA Level 3 Done… Membership Next

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Well, today I passed all of my Level 3 tests for the PGA apprentice (or "associate"?) program. I emailed in my application for membership, and the next election date is apparently July 2. So far as I know, I'll be elected to membership on July 2… and become a PGA Class A Member with an A-6 classification (https://www.pga.com/pga-america/pga-information/pga-america-member-classifications - Golf Instructor).

So, about $10k and nearly eight years (seriously, my deadline for not having to restart from square 1 is July 23) later… here I am.

It all started back on May 7, 2010…

Continued forward on July 18, 2010…

And the clock began ticking five days later when I bought my Level 1 course materials.

I went to my Level 1 seminars pretty quickly. Then took quite awhile to finish up the work portfolio. Before two years had elapsed, I won the first two PGA section events I entered - a pro-am at Lawrence Park GC with my team, and the pro-assistant in the fall with @david_wedzik. ;-) Then I was suspended when I hadn't finished Level 1 in < 2 years. ;-)

Shortly after that was done I scheduled my tests: Tournament Operations, Business Planning, Customer Relations, Introduction to Teaching and Golf Club Performance, and Golf Car Fleet Management.

I registered for Level 2, which reinstated me, but didn't play any events. I again dragged my feet before going to Level 2 seminars in 2015, I think, with my buddy Paul Kaster. I did the work portfolio, had it passed on May 31, 2017, and then took and passed my tests on August 7, 2017:  Golf Operations, Turfgrass Management, Intermediate Teaching and Golf Club Alteration, and Merchandising and Inventory Management.

So, with less than a year remaining until I'd have to start all over… I registered for my Level 3 trip to Florida for December, 2018 and submitted my work study portfolio a few weeks ago. Earlier today I passed my Level 3 tests: Advanced Teaching and Golf Club Fitting, Food and Beverage Control, Human Resources - Supervising and Delegating, and Player Development Programs and Teaching Business.

I submitted my application for membership and should be elected, I believe, on July 2.

Now, a brief Q&A. :-)


Why did it take me so long?

Though I appreciate that the PGA trains you in all facets of a golf operation, I sometimes found it difficult to work up the motivation to complete a work-study portion on Food & Beverage or Golf Car Fleet Management when I don't believe I'll ever want to do those things. I want to be an instructor, a teacher, a coach, and I've devoted ALL of my energy to that. I don't want to be a head pro, or a general manager.

So motivation was tough, as was access. I found it awkward to ask an often-times competing business for access to some of their private business data. For example, to fill out the "merchandising" section of your work portfolio, you have to talk about the merchandising operation at your facility. My facility - Golf Evolution - doesn't have one. So I had to talk with another course (or courses) and ask for access to their information. I'll be honest - I fought this a bit. I didn't think it was right or fair to require me to ask another person for access to their business information.

I understand that the PGA wants you to be a well-rounded golf professional who can step into any job they offer, but take a look at the classifications they have: https://www.pga.com/pga-america/pga-information/pga-america-member-classifications. This list includes:

  • A-12 - College or University Golf Coach
  • A-16 - Golf Course Architect
  • A-18 - Golf Media
  • A-19 - Golf Manufacturer Management
  • A-22 - Rules Official
  • others…

Some of those jobs don't have a Food & Beverage operation. They don't have to Manage a Golf Car Fleet. They don't have a Merchandising operation that they can control.

Heck, with my work here on TST and elsewhere, I could almost be A-18, and then I don't even know how I would have done the instructional parts of the work study stuff, let alone the rest of the stuff that almost assume you're an assistant professional at a standard green grass golf course facility.

That sounds kinda weird. What are you gonna do about it?

Honestly, I think the PGA should have "tracks" or "majors" like in college. We get the equivalent of a "liberal arts" degree - we're reasonably well versed in a lot of things, but mastery of any one section is left to our own work and effort.

The PGA seems to want to really produce broad-topic type professionals, but in my opinion if a guy did the PGA program and majored in "instruction," and someone hired him to be the director of golf at a resort… then either that hiring person made a mistake or the person is otherwise qualified. PGA membership, IMO, doesn't have to mean that you're qualified to do any of the Class A classifications. We didn't learn much that would let me become a golf course architect or a golf media member, for example, yet there are classifications for it.

So what should the PGA do?

I see they just announced version 3.0 of their PGM program, and I don't know what changes they've made. I'm curious to know…

If I were in charge of PGA education, I'd develop "tracks" or "majors" like I talked about above. If you wanted to be an instructor, you could take Level 1 and Level 2 instruction-related classes, perhaps even with a "senior thesis type paper" or project. Your education would be handled by some general PGA folks, but mostly by some PGA A-6 or other instruction-based classified members.

If you wanted to become "dual major" or a "triple major" you could do that too - just take other classes. If you wanted to work in the pro shop, you'd take the merchandising and golf car fleet management classes. If you wanted to be certified as a manager type, or head pro, you could take the HR/Management type classes. Maybe even the F&B classes.

All of the "majors" would require a cursory overview and knowledge of the other classes, but it wouldn't be to the level that we currently have in PGM 2.0.

So the PGA of America is bad?

Heck no. I think they're just a little behind the times, and could use an update to account for the idea that the head pro owns the golf shop and the golf cart and does the instruction and oversees F&B are a thing of the past. People in golf are specializing more. We have teachers who only want to teach. Head pros who don't control the shop, but oversee tournaments and the membership and train the shop and bag room staff.

Specialization is where it's at. I'd like to see the PGA move a bit more toward creating "master of one" professionals than "jack of all trades, master of none".

And for all I know, that's what PGM 3.0 does. I don't know.

What I do know is that I'm proud of the work I did. I'm proud to have put in the time and effort, even if it took me awhile (though in my defense, I was often busy WORKING in the golf industry, not just putting it off out of laziness… I spend 80-100 hours a week on golf as it is!), and I'm proud of what the PGA stands for and does. I'm proud of the PGA Championship, the members I've met over the years. I've not talked about it much, but I've trained hundreds of PGA members, through 5 Simple Keys® and Lowest Score Wins®, and I've presented (with @david_wedzik) at several section PGA education days. I look forward to being a productive, well-respected, diligent, hard-working member of the PGA who gives back. My small complaints (above) are not without a desire on my part to work with the PGA and to share my ideas and energy and to help them create the best program(s) possible. And, I'm keeping my eyes wide open - I suspect my attitude and opinions will change post-election to membership, as I learn more about how more of the PGA works. I look forward to continued education, earning MSR points ongoing, and even getting a specialization which I think I can do within about six months.


P.S. I'm posting this to the Locker Room until after July 2. Not because I don't think there's anything in here which is damning or even negative, just… I don't want to have to go over what I've written to make sure I've said everything accurately. I've shared all of this with PGA folks privately and sometimes publicly before, so it's not new. The PGA as a whole is a well-respected, well-run organization, and I'll be proud should I be elected to membership, and look to remain a productive member for years to come. Basically, I don't want to jinx anything. ;-)

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Congratulations!

I get the whole waiting game. Im stuck on level 2. Just procrastinating. It shouldn’t take me long to do it, I just have to dig in. 

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Congratulations Erik. The PGA of America probably doesn’t realize what an outstanding member they’re getting. You’ve done a lot for members here and I’m sure you’ll be excellent there as well. Great job Erik! 

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Nice! That's harsh you have to reset to square one if you miss their deadline. 

If the BFLs are still wrong in the teaching material, maybe you can put in a word to the appropriate people? 😀

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14 minutes ago, nevets88 said:

Nice! That's harsh you have to reset to square one if you miss their deadline.

I don’t think so. They can’t have people in the program for 20 years. They’d have to keep 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 classes, materials, and tests online forever.

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How was the sweater folding class I keep hearing about?  ;-) 

Seriously, congratulations.  I'm embarrassed to discover that I didn't congratulate you in either of those threads eight or so years ago.

I'm curious about something, and I feel like I knew the answer at some point, but did meeting Dave W have some influence on you going this route?  

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Huge congratulations on an outstanding achievement.  If it makes you feel any better it was exactly this kind of BS (and arguably it was even worse BS for tournament players then) that made Jack ineligible for Vardons and Ryder Cup (and Player of the year?  - not sure on that one) in his early years.

The PGA of America is lucky to have you.

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Congrats Erik!

As someone who made it thru half of the work portfolio 25 years ago, it sounds more involved than it did back then. There were a lot of guys that were just "hanging around" in the program back in my time. Now it appears you have to be really committed, which is a good thing.

Well done sir!

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Congrats Erik! Huge achievement and commitment to following through with your goal!

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16 hours ago, Shindig said:

Seriously, congratulations.  I'm embarrassed to discover that I didn't congratulate you in either of those threads eight or so years ago.

For all you or I know you never saw 'em. :-)

16 hours ago, Shindig said:

I'm curious about something, and I feel like I knew the answer at some point, but did meeting Dave W have some influence on you going this route?  

I had never even taken a lesson before meeting Dave. So yeah, absolutely. He's the only reason I even got into instruction, let alone into the PGA. Though he tells people he's not even sure he'd join the PGA if he had to this year. He was more upset and bothered by the stuff I had to do and "learn" than I was.

And he's on the board of our Western New York section. 😀

13 hours ago, turtleback said:

Huge congratulations on an outstanding achievement.  If it makes you feel any better it was exactly this kind of BS (and arguably it was even worse BS for tournament players then) that made Jack ineligible for Vardons and Ryder Cup (and Player of the year?  - not sure on that one) in his early years.

Well, yeah, but they had it a LOT easier back then. It also kept Paul Azinger off the Ryder Cup team in 1987, I believe.

6 hours ago, coachjimsc said:

As someone who made it thru half of the work portfolio 25 years ago, it sounds more involved than it did back then. There were a lot of guys that were just "hanging around" in the program back in my time. Now it appears you have to be really committed, which is a good thing.

I think they were still what they called the "business schools" back then.

Something like only 25% to 33% make it from Level 1 to Level 2. And then about half of those make it through 3 and into Membership.

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Congratulations on sticking with it for almost 8 years. Most vocations have some sort of long certification process.  Many people don't have the patience and grit to see it through to the end.  You are right to be proud about successfully completing the long journey.

Did your rates just go up? 😄

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