For the past 14 years, students in the PGA Golf Management program, a part of the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, have been given the opportunity to be mentored by a PGA professional.
According to Marty Hall, assistant director of PGM and founder of the mentorship program, about 85 percent of first-year students elect to participate each year. This year’s mentorship program has 60 students paired with 34 PGA professionals, with most mentors taking on two students as mentees. The PGA professionals involved in the program share their experience and expertise to help students succeed in the golf industry.
“I think it’s important that those with experience in the industry provide guidance to those just getting into the industry,” said mentor Dan Gawronski, director of golf at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club in Bonita Springs. “It helps perpetuate the enthusiasm for the industry itself.”
This year’s program kicked off in September in the Sugden Hall ballroom. Students met their mentors and heard a few words from FGCU President Mike Martin. For some, the event was their first opportunity to meet and chat with their mentors. This year’s mentors include 12 PGA professionals who are new to the program.
Under this formally structured mentor program, students can gain a lot of experience they wouldn’t get otherwise, said Alyssa Fritz, a freshman from Cape Coral. “You get the experience of having the consequences of messing up,” she said. “You live and you learn – that’s truly what this is about.”
Students who take advantage of the mentor program practice industry-specific skills by shadowing and receiving golf lessons from their mentors. They also learn about merchandising, budgeting, golf-car fleet management, tournament operations and much more.
Besides getting firsthand knowledge and experience from their mentors, students exponentially grow their professional network. The career-related guidance received results in top job and internship placement across the United States, among other benefits.
“For me, my mentor has given me priceless information that has helped me choose my internship spots, make professional decisions while on internship and helped me with decisions to make while working on the board for the PGM program,” said Bobby Conlon, vice president of the Student PGM Student Association.
Tara McKenna, director of the PGM program, sees the benefit of mentorship outside the university for students.
“It’s the foundation of their network,” McKenna said. “It levels them up in professionalism. It’ll give them the chance to potentially receive additional golf instruction outside of our [PGM] program, a place to play, references for future jobs, future job placement opportunities … you name it. In this industry, it’s who you know that might open other doors down the line for opportunities and advancement.”
– Matthew Udden is a senior communication major interning with University Marketing & Communications.