News | March 22, 2016

Eagle-SpottingLearningNews

PGA majors help faculty and staff sharpen skills

Students in Resort and Hospitality Management often get a chance to pamper the campus community through their growing expertise in professions such as spa management or banquet and event planning.

But students in another program also housed in Sugden Hall under the Lutgert College of Business banner can offer us a gift that lasts a lifetime: a better golf game.

Future club professionals in FGCU’s PGA Golf Management program — one of only 18 such programs in the U.S. — will take the skills they’ve been perfecting on and off the course and in the classroom and pass them along to university staff in an instructional clinic they’re staging at 6:30 p.m. March 29. It’s at nearby Alico Family Golf, 16300 Lee Road. FGCU faculty and staff can register by emailing their full name to [email protected].

The first session took place March 1, and the spring’s final clinic is scheduled April 12 also at 6:30 p.m.

Best of all, the clinics are free — which is quite a deal as golf lessons from a PGA professional can cost up to $100 an hour or more — although organizers say a small donation to the First Tee program, which introduces the game to junior golfers, would be appreciated.

To that end, Matthew Meyer, a senior from Tampa and one of the clinic instructors, notes that much like First Tee tries to plant the golf bug in the next generation, these free clinics help move the game forward for this generation in ways beyond trying to fix bad slice or hook shots.

“Our overall goal in doing these lessons is to grow the game,” said Meyer, who mixes his FGCU studies with on-the-job training at TwinEagles golf club in Naples. “Another reason is that we want to get our name into the FGCU spotlight. Not many people know about our program and what we do, but once they learn, they find it very interesting.

“Also, we know that our FGCU staff works very hard at what they do, so we want to give back to the school by doing what we do best and give a free golf lesson,” Meyer said.

The paying-it-forward theme also resonates with Alico Family Golf, a big supporter of the FGCU program, because it’s “educating the next breed of golf professionals,” said Kraig Feighery, a PGA professional at the facility. He rattled off many of the specialized skills the students are taught both at the university and in the field: “Alico Family Golf is the perfect training ground to help develop and prepare the future PGA professionals for golf instruction, practice techniques, club fitting, equipment repairs, merchandising, tournament operations, customer service, budgeting, rules and etiquette, maintenance, driving range and facility operations, and most importantly, growth-of-the-game initiatives.”

The March 29 clinic will focus on the “short game” — putting and chipping — and the timing of that topic is perfect. “The students are studying the short game the week leading up to the clinic, so they’ll be able to take what they learn and put it to use,” said Tara McKenna, director of the FGCU program since 2010 and a recent recipient of the 2015 Horton Smith Award, presented for exemplary contributions toward educating PGA professionals.

Instruction in a group setting limits the individual attention students can get, so the goal of the clinic is to first improve the students’ starting point. “Grip, posture and alignment are the three major things we like to touch on before we break into individual instruction specific to each student’s needs,” Meyer said.

“The basic fundamentals play a role throughout the swing, no matter what level you may be,” said clinic instructor Mark Thompson Jr., a sophomore from Newark, Del., who will return to his home state this summer for an internship at Bidermann Golf Club in Greenville. “If a student can keep those in mind and make their natural swing, progress has been achieved.”

As for the golf skills required for FGCU staffers to enjoy the clinics, well, there is no limit to how inexperienced — or experienced and bad — you can be. In fact, you don’t even need to bring clubs; Alico Family Golf will loan you clubs for free, if necessary.

“There is no judgment passed on skill level, and we cannot guarantee we can fix everything,” Meyer said. “However, we can guarantee a good time.”

Of course, it’s not only the staffers who take away benefits that last a lifetime. The student mentors say they, too, get much in return.

“If some piece of information I offer helps fix a certain issue and helps a student gain ground, then both the student and I are on the receiving end of that rewarding feeling,” Thompson said.

Meyer said he has given about 30 lessons so far, and still gets a “warm, fuzzy feeling inside” every time he sees success in his students. “I love what I do, and love helping people enjoy the game I have grown up loving,” he said.