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The PGA Way

Lifelong Learning and Education: The PGA Way

Golf is not just about mastering the mechanics of the game and spending an afternoon out on the links. Golf is so much more than a game. In fact, it is a gateway to a life of learning that continually evolves not only into a more meaningful and richer professional experience for its students, but it also creates a more profound personal impact.

Golf definitely allows its students to grow in myriad ways, and the Lifelong Learning and Education Program through the PGA opens the door to mastery within the diversity of career opportunities afforded by this wonderful profession for which many have great passion and unwavering commitment.

The PGA Certified Professional Program (CPP) is a career development education opportunity extended to all PGA members regardless of level of experience, inviting them to enhance their abilities both on and off the course, mastering the business of golf, as well. The three pillars associated with this program include golf operations, teaching and coaching, and executive management.

Several of the Tennessee Section PGA members have heeded the call and have embraced this unique opportunity to further elevate their respective golf careers. They have worked diligently to acquire additional skills, training, and competencies that employers and clients in the golf arena not only desire but expect.

Section Member Stories

Michael Callender  (General Manager / Centennial Golf Course / Oak Ridge, Tennessee:

“Since moving into the Tennessee Section PGA in 2015, I have become a firm believer in continuing education for many reasons.  The biggest reason has got to be how much our industry changes based on new technologies and the addition of new golfers trying our game.  One of the best quotes I’ve ever read was from Robert M. Hutchins who said, ‘Education is a kind of continued dialogue, and a dialogue assumes different points of view.’

As part of my passion for continuing education, in 2017 I decided to become a Certified PGA Professional in Golf Operations. While the online program was not what I expected, it definitely made me look at our industry from a different angle.  It also made me think about how new players looked at our Course, Golf Shop, Teaching Facility, and Restaurant.

I truly believe that the more you put into your educational activities, the more you get out of them.  If you are simply looking for a resume builder, then sign up and rush thru the program.  However, if you are looking to better yourself and grow as a professional and person, then take full advantage of programs like the Certified Professional Program and Section/Chapter Business Summits.”

Chris DeBusk  (General Manager / Council Fire Golf Club / Chattanooga, Tennessee):

“As a believer in lifelong learning efforts, I am a strong advocate for any continuing education efforts. The PGA of America offers its members a comprehensive educational path. Starting with the associate program and ultimately ending; if a member chooses, in the PGA Master Professional opportunity. I believe in the PGA Master Professional career path so much I actually took a step back in my career position in order to free up more time to engage and ultimately complete the program. It certainly contributed to having an opportunity to interview for the General Manager position here at Council Fire Club. Without being a PGA Master Professional who knows if I would be at Council Fire.

I strongly encourage all PGA Members to take stock in their careers, look in the mirror and ask – Am I where I want to be or deserve to be? If the answer is no then strategically plan how to strengthen your resume. Job positions and facilities one holds is only part of what a search committee looks at. It’s like getting into college, having the grades is only the base. Competition for special jobs is stronger than ever, so what else does a candidate bring to the table? Having a strong continuing education history is something that will separate you from the other candidates. There are 28,000 PGA Members and associates but only about 400 members have ever achieved PGA Master Professional status. A significant portion of those are set within their career paths. A candidate offering a bolstered resume with PGA Master Professional status most likely will be the only candidate with that designation. It certainly gives you a leg up on the competition.

Networking with all PGA Master Professional is one line item I didn’t expect. On a weekly basis I have other Master Professionals reaching out to introduce themselves and offer thoughts on a wide ranging subject matter. The annual luncheon at the PGA Show for just PGA Master Professionals along with the newly formed summit to occur this November in Scottsdale are opportunities for PGA Master Professionals to get together and learn from each other.

I am always here to offer any PGA Member who might be interested in guidance and mentoring on how I progressed through the extensive program. In the end of the day – we are all members of the best organization on the planet”


Michael DeColli (Assistant Professional / Memphis National Golf Club / Memphis, Tennessee):

“What made me decide to begin going through the Lifelong Learning program was my relationship with PGA Professional Tom Inczaukis from the Carolinas Section. Tom Inczaukis is a Master PGA Professional (Teaching/Coaching), and he is a PGM Professor at Methodist University. Getting to learn from him helped shape the kind of PGA Professional I would want to be. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to start the journey of becoming a Master Professional.

I think the Lifelong Learning Program is great because you can choose the career path. As someone who wants to be a Director of Golf, I chose golf operations. The other two career paths are perfect if you want to learn about the business of teaching and executive management. You can also do the Specialized Program on your own schedule. The program is very beneficial to professionals because it helps you build skills that you may not have, and it helps you enhance skills that you already have. Going through the program will ultimately make you a well-rounded professional because you will ultimately use these skills in multiple places throughout the golf industry.

The program has helped learn more about the industry. One of the things you will have to do is research where the industry is at currently and where it is going. It also reinforces the benefits of what a market analysis can do for your facility and your business plan.

The program is also a resume builder! Anything that can make you stand out from the crowd will certainly get the attention of facilities looking to hire. Just like practicing the golf swing, if you are willing to invest your time in your professional career, then there will be positive results in the future.”


Rey Padilla (General Manager / Elizabethton Municipal Golf Club / Elizabethton, Tennessee):

“The Lifelong Learning program has been an essential component in my career as a PGA Professional. I was able to apprentice under a PGA Master Professional, and through his mentorship, I learned the importance of continuing education.

Completing the Certified Professional program has expanded my knowledge and abilities and has helped me to become a more versatile general manager. I would highly encourage any PGA Professionals, seeking to improve their marketability, increase their understanding of the golf industry, or become a more well-rounded professional, to pursue the higher education available in the Lifelong Learning program.”