A PGA Member Duo That is Opening the Door for Women to Flourish in Golf
By Kayla Gutierrez
Florida Gulf Coast University’s PGA Golf Management program has quickly become one the largest in the country, drawing from 37 different states and 9 different countries, with nearly 200 total students enrolled in the program.
And while the sandy beaches and sunshine in Estero, Florida, might be a popular selling point, there’s also two PGA Professionals who’ve been largely responsible for the program’s success.
That’s Tara McKenna and Marty Hall.
As Program Director and Assistant Program Director, McKenna and Hall possess a wealth of knowledge on how to successfully navigate the golf industry, with a combined 60 years of experience in a variety of settings. Both are PGA Certified Professionals and McKenna is an LPGA Life Member, while Hall serves on the South Florida PGA Board of Directors as Education Chair.
Prior to their positions at FGCU, McKenna and Hall worked in the green grass realm, as assistants and then PGA Head Professionals. McKenna, raised in Albany, New York, and Hall from Columbus, Ohio, are also astute players — McKenna played golf for James Madison University and Hall played for the University of Notre Dame.
The duo have been at FGCU since the PGA Golf Management program's early years, and together they have guided 14 student cohorts to graduation. But much of why the program is flourishing each year is because of the close-knit relationship they have with each other.
“We are always supportive of each other. Our strengths are complimentary. We collaborate well and share a passion for always wanting to change the status quo.” says Hall. “That’s really why we work extremely well together.”
Their strong relationship, professional experiences, expert knowledge of the game, and outgoing personalities keep learning in the classroom, and on the course, engaging and fun.
“We often share our personal experiences and stories with our students. This really helps bring the course material to life.” says McKenna. “Students enjoy listening to real life situations and perspectives in the industry.”
Inspiring women to lead
For freshman Sammie Spach, a personal visit with McKenna and Hall helped seal the deal on her college decision.
“Before I even began the program, I met Marty and Tara on one of my visits to the school. Marty happened to be from my hometown and encouraged me to work for an amazing FGCU alum in our area,” says Spach. “She was extremely kind and it was clear she wanted the best for me. And now that I’m in the program, I know that I can come to them for anything.
Their doors are always open and they are always willing to listen and talk to you. I look up to them for everything. They really make me feel so comfortable. From the start, they have always cared and been so supportive of me in everything I do.
Program freshman Sammie Spach
The program will have approximately 25 incoming women this fall, a number that has steadily increased throughout the years. Having two women leading a program in a male-dominated industry has inspired many students in the program to lead as well, with many of them choosing to run for a position on the Student Association Executive Board.
“The ladies in our program are very close.” says Grace McKinnon, who was the first woman to serve as board president in program history. “We all work together and help each other out in any way we can. Tara and Marty are our biggest supporters and pave the way through the industry for us, teaching us how to navigate the industry, market ourselves, and advocate for ourselves.”
Many alumni and current ladies of the program credit much of their success to McKenna and Hall, viewing them as role models and leaning on them for support and guidance throughout their academic and professional careers.
Lou Conseil, PGA, is one of many graduates of the program who believes Marty and Tara played a significant role in shaping her career in the industry.
“Tara and Marty have always been in my corner since the very day I set foot on the FGCU campus,” says Conseil. “They quickly got me involved with our PGA Golf Management Student Association, and have helped me set up my career. When I got offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the Amundi Evian Championship as a Sports Manager in Paris, Tara and Marty were the first ones to push me to take the job.
“They gave me the confidence I needed to take that step in my professional career and faith in myself that I was making the right decision.”
With their emphasis on cultivating strong relationships and implementing innovative ideas, McKenna and Hall have exponentially grown the program.
McKenna is known around the FGCU campus for her tireless advocacy for both the success of the program and that of her students. If a current student is facing academic or university-related challenges, she’s always the first to reach out and offer assistance.
Hall spearheaded the creation of a successful PGA Mentor Program, which just celebrated its 14th year this past September. The program is an important initial step in the path to becoming a PGA Professional, creating a way for first-year students to connect with the industry’s best PGA Professionals.
Each year, the program improves, drawing more PGA Professionals who want to be a part of training the Association’s future. This spring, Hall also launched an Eagles Fore FGCU fundraising campaign to fund more student success initiatives moving forward.
Justin DeFont, the PGA Head Professional at Audubon Country Club, is one of many in the Southwest Florida area who is vested in the success of the program and its students. DeFont serves on the FGCU PGM Advisory Board, hosted the second ever Eagles FORE FGCU event, and knows first-hand the impact McKenna and Hall have made.
“We are so fortunate to have the program located right in our backyard,” says DeFont. “The work of Tara and Marty sets the bar for education and career development in the golf industry. The passion and excitement to advance the program is evident when you meet them. It brings me joy to host students and contribute to the success of the entire program.”
Tara and Marty’s dedication to supporting aspiring PGA Members has taken them far and inspired many women to see the best version of themselves in golf along the way.
“We both share the same drive to be the best in everything we do,” says Hall. “We genuinely enjoy engaging with our students, families, our professional colleagues at the university and within the PGA of America, and the entire golf community.
We relish the opportunity to be a part of shaping the future generation of PGA Professionals. I am grateful that both of our careers led us to FGCU.”
To learn more about PGA University programs, click here.