Conquering the Unconquerable: How AC Cox, PGA, Blends Education, Golf to Create Change
By AC Cox, PGA
AC Cox, PGA, is the second Black PGA Golf Management student to graduate from one of the 17 programs across the country. (Photo courtesy of Fairways Media)
I was born and raised in Pass Christian, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast, about an hour from New Orleans. My grandfather was introduced to the game as a teenager in Mississippi when he started caddying at a local country club.
As was typical with most caddies in the 1920s, he learned the game from being around the golfers at the club and the opportunity to play the course on caddy play days. My grandfather taught his five sons to play the game, and they all became accomplished golfers. He gave me my first golf club (which I still have) when I was 10, and I’ve been playing the game ever since.
The aspect of the game that makes me continue to return is the challenge of conquering the unconquerable. As said in the movie Tin Cup, “perfection is unattainable,” and I think this is what motivates me.
I like the dynamic of golf being an individual game played with others, and I appreciate the value of spending time alone while being with others. One bonus to the coronavirus pandemic is that it brought me back to walking when I play — something that I missed for years.
During my senior year in high school, a recruiter from Mississippi State University visited our campus and introduced me to the school’s PGA Golf Management University Program. The program looked to be a good fit, given I was the four-year captain of my high school golf team. After much deliberation, I enrolled at Mississippi State and majored in Professional Golf Management, becoming the program’s first Black graduate and the second Black PGA Golf Management student to graduate in the country.
In September 2000, I was elected to PGA Membership while employed at a club in Michigan. As the season winded down, I returned to Mississippi State to pursue an MBA. While there, a position opened within a newly accredited PGA Golf Management program at Campbell University, and I was hired as the program's Assistant Director. My responsibilities included mainly classroom instruction, however, upon completing my MBA in 2001, I began teaching undergraduate and eventually graduate marketing courses.
I spent seven years at Campbell, then three years at North Carolina State University’s PGA Golf Management program, and three years as a trainer and recruiter at GOLFTEC Headquarters in Denver. Most of my career in the golf industry has revolved around educating adult learners.
When I mention to people that I work for Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), they immediately assume that I serve as a coach for the golf team. Unfortunately, we no longer have golf as an interscholastic sport, which only adds to the confusion. However, once I explain that I was a full-time marketing professor and now serve as the Interim Associate Dean in the Gail Miller School of Business at SLCC — as well as being an active PGA Professional — they move from confusion to intrigue.
There are similarities between both careers. Both are expected to provide superior customer service, be present, engaging, empathetic, sympathetic and knowledgeable. Both also require a deep understanding of consumer behavior and how consumers make decisions.
The best part of my career path is that it has allowed me to work in both of my passions. The golf industry has provided me with experiences and opportunities that I may otherwise have yet to experience. At the same time, the academic classroom presents the chance to help change the lives of my students.
The business side of golf needs people with business expertise. Many concepts I share with my marketing students are relevant to the golf industry. My fellow PGA Professionals in the Colorado and Utah PGA Sections recognized this relationship and elected me to serve as a member on their respective Board of Directors. My election in Utah makes me one of the few Black PGA Professionals to serve on a board in multiple Sections, which shows that the industry is slowly recognizing the importance of representation. I’m grateful that I get to be a pioneer.
I love teaching golf lessons, and I am currently working with SLCC to build an indoor teaching facility on campus to allow me to share the game of golf with more people.
It was serendipitous that I stumbled into a career in higher education through the golf industry. I would not have had the career success I’ve experienced in academia without golf and vice versa.
And now, I have the best of both worlds.
Interested in exploring a career in golf or PGA Membership? You can find more information today by visiting pga.org/workingolf.