How the Road Less Taken Led Keith Stewart, PGA, to a New Career in Golf
By Keith Stewart, PGA
The PGA of America was built on the mentor-mentee relationship over 100 years ago. No different than an electrician or a carpenter, right? No, that comparison doesn’t work anymore.
All electrician apprentices become electricians. Not all PGA of America Golf Professionals become one type of professional.
You can find PGA of America Members everywhere in the golf ecosystem. In my case, you can look at your smartphone. The opportunities available to PGA Professionals worldwide are limitless. The growing popularity of our great game has opened an infinite number of doors in our industry. Interest in golf has never been greater.
Forget the “Tiger boom,” I was there. Yes, I spent five years as a PGA Member at Isleworth Country Club (1998-2003). Inside the center of the maelstrom, I saw the effect Woods had on the world, and golf is far more popular today.
As millions were introduced to golf in the late '90s, the industry grew. I witnessed success (Golf Channel) and failure(s) firsthand in Orlando. It sparked an entrepreneurial spirit inside of me, and I believe all PGA of America Golf Professionals have the same fire burning inside their soul.
To succeed and become a PGA Professional, you have to set yourself apart as a leader. I see it across social media every day. More than 30,000 PGA Professional men and women promoting the game, their role, and having fun in so many creative ways.
Three years ago, I anxiously took the road less travelled and started a company, transitioning from a PGA Head Professional role. I enlisted the help of everyone in my network. I was scared at the time, but what I witnessed during the Tiger boom years inspired me to try.
My path may not be for everyone, but there is more than one road to success in our game. After twenty years working at the course, I chose to build a golf betting company. Its a media platform designed to promote the game to a younger audience of mobile sports fans and in doing so, I have not only invigorated my career, but I have connected multiple generations to the game in a fun and entertaining way. The average golf television viewer is 64 years old; the average mobile sports bettor is 37.
It makes sense, if you think about it: golf is the only sport that has betting in it; golfers bet. We don't go play pickup basketball with nine other people and bet on the game. We don't go swim in the ocean and race for five bucks. Everyone steps up to the first tee. Man, woman, child, grandmother—five generations worth of people that I've catered to in my career— and they all come up with some way to figure out a wager. I'll buy you a soda if you do this. Closest to the pin for a beer. Or hell, a $5 Nassau. It's the lifeblood of the game.
As a PGA of America Golf Professional, I want to introduce a level of consistency to the wagering world. The game is not all statistics. I found a niche explaining the beauty between architecture, analytics and agronomy. Amid change comes ingenuity. Golf’s myopic mindset has shifted in the past three years and the popularity continues to intensify. The world was helping change the narrative around the game, why shouldn’t I join them? Being an entrepreneur was less rebellious and more in line with the world.
The golf industry is growing and so is the number of PGA of America Golf Professionals, now more than 30,000 strong. Being a PGA Professional in the greater sports business universe has opened so many doors for me. Perception is reality, and the world sees us as the experts in the business and game of golf whether we are at the golf course or not. Through my experience of exploring other PGA classifications, I have met so many new mentors.
Today, I continue to feed my entrepreneurial soul. I encourage those reading this to think about their own (or future) place in our industry. Golf has so much to offer PGA Professionals. I have spent a career talking to groups and individuals about career enhancement. The PGA career path is far from linear. There are many roads we can travel. We are introduced to so many important decision makers and advocates. Don’t be afraid to look alongside life’s highway for a different road.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both…
…I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost
Please pass this narrative along to others who are considering a role in our industry. I cannot be more transparent: being a PGA Member is the reason for my life’s success. A PGA Professional is just that; a professional. I was always “the pro.” That’s all I could identify with. Members, customers, guests, family, and friends all knew me as such.
"Being a PGA Professional in the greater sports business universe has opened so many doors for me. Perception is reality, and the world sees us as the experts in the business and game, whether we are at the golf course or not."
Keith Stewart, PGA
Funny thing is when I took a different path, their opinion of me never changed; mine did.