Celebrating the essence of PGA Show week
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Neither Congress nor the President is listening to me – I’m told they have other concerns – but the last week of January should be declared PGA of America Week.
Two events, the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit and PGA Merchandise Show, are being held this week in Orlando, Fla. Hurrah for the PGA.
When I say PGA, I mean PGA of America. I’m not talking about the PGA Tour. In late 1968, the PGA Tour (then called the Tournament Players Division) split from the PGA of America. Today they remain separate organizations.
How lucky am I? At the T & C, I listened to Bob Toski, Bobby Clampett and Gary Wiren, all in the same day. At the PGA Merchandise Show, which starts Thursday, Jan. 27, I will see the newest clubs and balls from golf equipment manufacturers.
2011 PGA Merchandise Show: Demo Day
Demo Day at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla.
The PGA has more than 28,000 members. Many of them are club professionals. I always wanted to be a club pro. As a kid, I loved the smell and clutter of small golf shops. I loved the stories that were told in those sanctuaries.
I never lost my fascination for the golf profession, even when I became a journalist (choice No. 2) and not a golf pro (choice No. 1).
Many PGA members knew from an early age that golf would be their only job. Some, though, migrated to golf after pursuing other positions.
Wednesday at the prelude Demo Day segment of the PGA Merchandise Show, Brad Myers handed me a business card with a large capitol dome on it. That’s because Myers is head professional at Congressional Country Club, host of this summer’s U.S. Open.
“I would much rather be at my current dome than the one where I used to work,” said Myers, 47, who majored in political science at the University of Kentucky and became an agricultural lobbyist in Washington D.C. In the administration of George H.W. Bush, he was director of congressional relations in the department of agriculture.
After Bush lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton, Myers was forced to make a career decision. His top two options were lobbyist and golf pro, not necessarily in that order. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a persistent voice kept saying, “Follow your heart, choose golf.”
And so he did.
“I knew I would have to pay my dues,” Myers recalled. “I started out by washing golf carts.”
That was at West Winds Golf Club in New Market, Md., from where he graduated to an assistant’s position at Kenwood Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
In 1999 he took a job as No. 1 assistant at Congressional. Two years later he was named head professional.
Myers loves golf. Take an afternoon and he’ll tell you all about it. He began playing in Lincoln, Ill., when he was 7, and the ecstasy never left him.
Being a golf professional can be a complex, time-consuming job. Without a passion for the sport, this could be one of the world’s worst jobs.
“It’s not all that different from politics,” Myers said. “It involves a lot of problem solving. The fulfillment comes from helping people play.
“Golf is important to so many people. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. We try very hard to make the experience as good as it can be for all golfers.”
Congressional is not your ordinary club. There are two courses and more than 3,000 members, with about 1,600 of them maintaining handicaps. Myers oversees a fulltime staff of 10 to 12 assistants plus 5 or 6 interns.
Does Myers miss politics?
“No,” he said with conviction. “I love being a golf professional. I love being part of the PGA. I can’t imagine returning to politics.”