In January 2008, with great pride, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in the quaint town of Princess Anne became the first historically black college accredited by the PGA of America to offer the PGA Golf Management University Program to its students.
The PGA Golf Management University Program is a 4½-year structured college curriculum for aspiring PGA Professionals. The educational program is accredited by the PGA of America and includes extensive classroom studies, internship experience and player development providing students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the golf industry.
Considering a career in golf?
Carving a profession in the game of golf isn't just for touring pros, as University of Maryland Eastern Shore Golf Management Director Billy Dillon explains:
"Golf in this country is a $76 billion-per-year industry. Educated, quality people can find a niche in this business. And it doesn’t have to be in a traditional position. The options are numerous. If someone has a passion for the game, as I do, there is a place for them. They must be dedicated and conditioned to the industry. They must understand that while other people are at play, we are working. Professionals are running and operating businesses, but they never forget customers are spending their disposable income with us to enjoy themselves. The golf industry is a hospitality industry; not everyone is cut out to work in that field. Make sure you are involving yourself in the golf industry for the right reasons."
Adding the PGA Golf Management University Program as part of the curriculum was the vision of UMES President, Dr. Thelma B. Thompson.
"Dr. Thompson understands conducting business and playing golf go together,” said Billy Dillon, director of the UMES PGA Golf Management University Program. “She wants all UMES students to have a chance to learn the basics of the game so when they are in the business world they won't feel intimidated if offered a chance to play in a local charity fundraiser or invited to participate in a company retreat.”
While the PGA Golf Management University Program wasn’t accredited until 2008, Thompson got the ball rolling in 2004 when she hired UMES Football Hall of Famer Marshall Cropper to start a golf academy.
Initially, the academy featured an indoor hitting area and an outdoor driving range for students. The exercise science department at UMES also started offering, “beginning golf,” for academic credit in the academy, Dillon said.
Things took off from there.
“A newspaper reporter wrote a story on the academy and the Associated Press picked it up,” Dillon explained. “The AP story ended up on the desk of Earnie Ellison (PGA Director of Business and Community Relations) with the PGA of America. Mr. Ellison called Dr. Thompson to see how golf fit in at UMES. As I understand it, PGA officials visited campus and began discussing the PGA/PGM with the administration. UMES decided to add the PGA/PGM to its curriculum and proceeded to meet PGA of America requirements for accreditation. In January 2008, the PGA added UMES as its 20th PGA/PGM university.”
The PGA Golf Management University Program was created in 1975 at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., as the first university to gain PGA Accreditation and offer the PGM curriculum.
The addition of the PGA Golf Management University Program to the already healthy curriculum at UMES made perfect sense to Dr. Thompson, who doesn’t view golf as simply a leisurely game.
“The addition of Professional Golf Management to our curriculum has been a tremendously positive step for our university,” Dr. Thompson said. “In our culture, golf is not only an important recreational activity; it is also where a great deal of business networking occurs. We believe our students can benefit from understanding both.”
And that’s where Dillon, who has been a part of the UMES PGA Golf Management University Program since its inception, enters the picture. Like many readers out there, golf snatched Dillon up hook, line and sinker from the first moment he started playing.
“My father introduced me to the game when I was 13,” Dillon said. “His golf buddy had died of cancer and he asked me if I wanted to play. I remember standing on the first tee at the local nine-hole facility, Blue Heron Golf Club, in Stevensville, Md., holding a three wood and barely getting the ball to the fairway. I was hooked and started playing on a regular basis.”
Dillon played other sports, but none of them compared to the passion he had for golf. In high school, Dillon landed a job at Prospect Bay Country Club in Grasonville, Md., where he worked under PGA Professional Terry Shaffer.
“By the time I entered college, I knew I was going to work in the golf industry as a PGA Professional,” Dillon said.
Combining academics and athletics, as the PGA Golf Management University Program does, places greater responsibility on the students to graduate, Dillon said.
“They must attend class, study and prepare for exams just like their peers, but they also must earn a passing score on the Playing Ability Test and serve a16-month internship, which means they spend time on the golf course and driving range sharpening their skills,” he explained. “They also have the added pressure of preparing resumes, applying for and interviewing for the mandatory internships. At UMES, ours is a comprehensive degree program, which integrates all the curriculum requirements of a hotel and restaurant management major with the knowledge base of the PGA Golf Management Program. Admission to the program includes qualifying for admission to the university, then petitioning for admittance into the PGA Golf Management Program. A verification of a USGA handicap of 12 or less is required.”
Clearly, the PGA Golf Management University Program isn’t only about playing golf.
“The vision of President Thompson has become a reality and we thank the university administration for its contribution and continued support of this program,” Dr. Ayodele Alade, UMES’ business school dean, said. “Having a PGM program is another way for our university to provide relevant instruction in a profession where our graduates hopefully can have a positive impact.”
The PGA Golf Management University Program at UMES has just entered its fourth year. While it may still be fairly new, it’s already prospering and adding great diversity to a game and profession that’s always needed it.
“Currently, 25 percent of the students enrolled in the PGA Golf Management Program are minorities,” Dillon said. “In September 2010, a group of our students won the C. Payne Lucas Golf Classic, which raises funds for Black Professionals in International Affairs Organization. That same month, students banded together, organized and ran the Golf-for-a-Cure Tournament in Annapolis, Md., which raised money for breast cancer awareness and research.”
The best part of the job as Director of the PGA Golf Management University Program for Dillon is the interaction with the students on a day-to-day basis.
“Relationships built with the students will carry on for a lifetime,” he said. “We see our students as if they are our children and we want them to be successful in whatever they decide to do with their degree. Being involved with the PGA of America staff on a section and national level is rewarding as well. PGA of America leaders are looking to Directors like me to strengthen the future of the organization by producing high-quality people and professionals. Lastly, being able to count on 19 other Directors for advice is reassuring. We are a tight group that has unique issues to deal with and we understand the challenges and rewards of operating PGA Golf Management Programs.”
Below is a list of universities nationwide that offer the PGA Golf Management University Program (you can click each one for more information):
- Arizona State University, Meza, Ariz. (1999)
- Campbell University, Buies Creek, N.C. (1999)
- Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. (2001)
- Coastal Carolina University, Conway, S.C. (1999)
- Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Ky. (2006)
- Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich. (1975)
- Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers, Fla. (2005)
- Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fla. (1999)
- Methodist University, Fayetteville, N.C. (1999)
- Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss. (1985)
- New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M. (1987)
- North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. (2002)
- Penn State University, University Park, Pa. (1990)
- Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas (2005)
- University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Okla. (2008)
- University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo. (2003)
- University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho (2002)
- University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Md. (2008)
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb. (2004)
- University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nev. (2002)