PGA graduates, Lee Cardy and Stella McClure.
PGA welcomes 2022/2023 cohorts at Graduation Ceremony
More than 100 graduates from 2022 and 2023 celebrated their success and achievements with family and friends at the University of Birmingham as they were officially welcomed into PGA Membership.
The historic Great Hall at the heart of the university campus once again proved to be a fitting setting as graduates were joined by family, friends, and staff in what remains one of the most important dates in the PGA calendar.
“Every year we get to this point, and I talk to the team back at The Belfry and PING House and stress that this day is the biggest in our calendar year,” said Paul Wiseman, PGA Executive Director – Education. “It’s not just the biggest day for the PGA Trainees, but it’s the biggest day for the education team, who work so hard for the Trainees.
“These graduates might not understand the significance of how important this day is. Many of them will be celebrating the end of the PGA Training Programme, but this is actually the start of something. This is the start of a membership and a relationship with The PGA we hope will maybe last 30/40 years.
“As Director of the PGA Training Programme I get a massive of pride that this Graduation Ceremony comes together so well. This isn’t just a celebration of the PGA Foundation Degree or the Diploma for Higher Education, there’s so many difference elements of the programme that come together.”
Among the graduates was 2022 PGA Trainee of the Year Lee Cardy who is based at Woodhall Spa Golf Club. He said: “I’m really proud to be the 2022 PGA Trainee of the Year. I’ve been fairly academic since college. I work hard at what I do but it’s definitely unexpected to pick up the 2022 award.
“I was lucky in that I had already studied subjects already like business. I was interested in that but not to the same level that I am at golf, which is my passion. I was learning about getting better at golf and helping other people get better too. I thoroughly enjoyed putting into the practice the learnings and tried to make myself and others get better at golf coaching.”
Stella McClure was presented with the 2023 PGA Trainee of the Year Award. Stella was previously a doctor but joined the PGA Training Programme at the age of 51 to follow her passion for golf.
McClure, who is based at Falkirk Golf Club, said: “In achieving the 2023 PGA Trainee of the Year Award, I have to say it’s probably been my toughest challenge I’ve taken on in my life. Maybe that’s partly because I’m 54 now but I think it was also the modules we undertook were really demanding and the assessment standards were really high, so I feel I really deserve this award.
“I enjoyed all of the modules and I didn’t expect to enjoy them all as much as I did, especially the business part of the course, but I appreciated the business aspect of the course because I need to know about this in order to develop my coaching business. I also appreciate how important a knowledge of equipment technology is to a golf coach. I have a background in medicine, so I really do love the anatomy a physiology side of things. All of that is important to providing the right kind of coaching for each client.
“Overall, I enjoyed the coaching module the most but it was the toughest. The coaching exams were tough, and they really put us through our paces but we’re all ready now to go on and become PGA Members.”
The PGA Training Programme, encompassing the three-year Foundation Degree, was founded more than 50 years ago and covers all aspects of golf, from business and equipment technology, to sports science and sports psychology.
Ninety-seven per cent of people who graduate go on to work in the golf industry where they will undertake more than 70 career options.
Wiseman added: “These graduates need to be proud of days like this. For someone who has worked in education for a long time, well over 30 years, this is a training programme like no other and it’s certainly the most challenging.”
McDonald overcomes adversity to become a PGA Professional
He’s been described by his mentor as ‘an icon’ of The PGA. “I’ll take that,” said Gregor McDonald with an appreciative chuckle. The 27-year-old certainly deserves the praise and plaudits that have come his way.
McDonald, 27, suffers from cerebral palsy but, in this all-embracing game for every walk of life, the young Scot continues to prove that a disability is no barrier to accomplishment.
McDonald has just graduated as a PGA Member and his journey is an inspiring tale of determination, defiance, enthusiasm and endeavour.
“I’m very proud of myself,” said McDonald, who is based at the Cluny Clays facility in Kirkcaldy. “I never thought I would do something like this, especially when I was younger with all the difficulties that I faced. But I’ve proved that a disability shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your goals. I’m one of the very few disabled PGA pros and hopefully I can inspire a few more to come down this route.”
A key part of his development has been the sage counsel of Craig Donnelly, the vastly-experienced PGA pro who took McDonald under his wing at a young age and has watched his golfing career flourish.
“Given his obvious limitations, it is a wonderful achievement and helping him through the PGA Training Programme has given me a great amount of pride,” said Donnelly, who runs several golf facilities in the UK and Spain.
“He’s spent his entire life just getting on with it and he’s never shied away from a challenge. I first met him over 10 years ago. His mum said, ‘just treat him as a normal kid and he’ll pick it all up’. Sure enough, he has.
“Because of his physical limitations, he plays cack-handed and, back in those early days, we built a swing and a golf game around that. We introduced more hybrids and lofted woods into his bag. We just had to make some wee adjustments to make it a bit easier for him. Initially, it wasn’t about making him a pro, it was just about making him a better golfer, but we just kept on developing to the point where I got him enrolled in The PGA system.”
Embarking on the PGA degree, run in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, was a rigorous yet rewarding examination of McDonald’s physical and mental abilities and he embraced the various challenges with great gusto. Performing club repairs, for instance, with essentially one hand was one of those challenges but McDonald persevered. Under Donnelly’s shrewd eye, he was able to develop the multi-tasking qualities that are part and parcel of being a PGA Professional.
“I told him not to exclude anything,” Donnelly added. “I encourage all my staff to do a bit of everything, whether it’s coaching, custom fitting, repairs, whatever.
“We have also worked hard on his ability to communicate. We have pushed him to do group classes and speak in front of a crowd. It wasn’t his strongest area, but he came through it with flying colours. A business like ours lends itself to an all-round approach and Gregor has really embraced that.”
McDonald’s strength of character, as well as the modesty and affable nature that has endeared him to many, continues to stand him in good stead.
“Determination is one of his great strengths,” said Donnelly. “And he’s the most likeable person ever too. Nobody has a bad word to say about him. He’s also got loads of patience and all those people he has coached say that too. That’s a great attribute for life, not just golf.
“He is an icon for The PGA. We love him to bits. We always say that he should shout from the rooftops about what’s he’s achieved but he’s not that kind of guy.”
As for the guy himself? Well, now that’s he’s a fully qualified PGA pro, it’s a case of onwards and upwards.
“Graduating has been a nice reward for all the hard work I’ve put in as well as the support Craig has given me,” said McDonald. “He’s watched me progress from a junior to a PGA pro. Hopefully, there’s more to come. In this game, you never stop learning.”
Upwardly mobile Bacon lands a right Royal appointment
PGA Professional Matthew Bacon is all set to take up the prestigious general manager’s role at Royal Cromer – one of Norfolk’s stunning coastal golf clubs.
Bacon, 30, has maintained an upwardly mobile profile since graduating with an Applied Golf Management Studies degree, run in partnership by the PGA and the University of Birmingham.
His new appointment, which will see him starting at Royal Cromer in the week commencing June 5, follows an enjoyable stint as general manager at Eaton Golf Club in suburban Norwich.
Bacon said: “It’s a very similar role. I saw the advert late last year and I was lucky enough to get offered the job at the end of February, start of March. I accepted and I’m really looking forward to going across. I start the week when the club’s hosting the Norfolk Amateur Championship, so that will be nice.
“Being from the area, I’ve known that club for a long time. I absolutely love the course and love the work that they’re doing there. It’s a club that’s really moving forward, trying to come out on its own and be what it has the potential of being – one of the very best. It currently sits just outside the top-100 and I think they want to be well within that, which I think they’ve got the potential to do.”
Bacon is very aware of how he’s becoming part of a club that is moving in the right direction. As such, his management style will be supportive and considered more than anything else during his settling-in period.
He said: “They’re obviously doing a lot of things well, so I think it’s really important to get to know a club fully before you make suggestions on making changes. But without the club having a general manager since last June, I’ll be trying to fill that leadership role and head of staff – to have someone there to help the communication between the management committee and the members. The first few months, I’ll also be trying to get to know as many people as possible and hearing their perception of the club and their ideas as well.”
This will be Bacon’s fourth managerial position since graduating from his AGMS degree – a course that he believes has served him well in his career progression.
He said: “I definitely learned things within my time there which helps me within my role. I went into that degree doing my PGA as well as I wasn’t quite sure what side of the industry I was interested in. During my time at university and on placements I realised that the management and ops was the side I was most attracted by. That definitely shaped my career and the roles I’ve subsequently been involved with.”
So, what does Matt think makes a good general manager in a good club? “Good question!” is his initial response. “I think you’ve got to have good knowledge on so many different facets of the club, have an eye on the industry and the future – also take into consideration members’ needs and, as a club, make sure they can satisfy as many needs of the membership and visitors as possible.”
When he makes his final good-byes at Eaton, there will be a tinge of sadness in among his feelings of excitement at what lies ahead.
He said: “It will be around two and a half years that I’ve been at Eaton – I’ve really enjoyed it. It wasn’t an easy decision at all to leave and I wish them all the best.”
Stepping into Bacon’s general manager shoes at Eaton will be another PGA professional – Neil Lythgoe.