Scanning the internet, I was attracted by this interesting line: Are you keen on becoming a Golf Professional as opposed to a Professional Golfer? This was an advert for The PGA of South Africa apprentice programme. Interestingly, the entry requirements to the programme are similar with the qualifications for one to become a professional golfer i.e. the prescribed handicap limits.
The sport of golf is highly specialized and thus has a myriad of career opportunities available to the talented players. Some of these include Golf Coach, Golf Teacher, Golf Club Manager, Rules official, Golf Event Manager, Golf Journalist and Commentator, Greenkeeper and Golf Administrator.
In developed jurisdictions, these are very lucrative career options according a plethora of possibilities to skilled players in their golfing journey. The advantage of this outlook is that a golf professional will focus on a specific career path, specialize and develop to the fullest. For example Kenya Open 2013 champion Jordi Garcia Pinto retired from professional golf in 2017, at the age of 27 years, to forge a career in golf administration. He is now a tournament administrator, running events on the European Tour, European Challenge Tour and Legends Tour. He was actually at the Kenya Open 2021 and Savannah Classic as a referee.
There are more than 70 professional golfers in Kenya under the aegis of Professional Golfers of Kenya, PGK. Less than 10% of these golfers are engaged in formal employment as golf professionals. In fact, majority of them operate on loose informal agreements with golf clubs where they are “attached” to the establishments as resident club professionals. With this “arrangement” the pros are allowed to give lessons to members seeking to learn or improve their game. In most cases, the tenure of the “attachment” at the club is at the discretion of the club management.
Our professional golfers are a living testimony of “Jack-of-all trades’. Pushed to the wall, our pros operate very tight schedules … coaching, teaching, playing, equipment repairing, merchandising etc. Whereas multitasking has seen them earn a living, in the long term it is not a viable approach. Specialization is the way to go. Not all talented players must ply their trade as professional golfers to attain self-actualization in the sport.
But is Kenya’s “golf industry” properly structured to accommodate golf professionals so that we save the whole bunch of 70 pros from scrambling for the pittance that is prize money on offer at tournaments?
At a very bare minimum, every golf club needs the following services; coaching, greenkeeping, administration, club repairs and management in general. With more than 40 registered golf clubs, one wonders from where our establishments are sourcing for competent human resources to execute these specialized tasks. It is an open secret that many of these roles in most golf clubs are performed by persons without the requisite knowledge of the game. This is because, our professional golfers have not demonstrated that they exclusively possess this specialised knowledge hence staffing for such functions should be entirely their preserve. Consequently, the entry level requirements for most of the golf management roles has become a free for all, a situation that has no doubt compromised on quality.
All is not lost, though. Professional golfers, through PGK, can right these wrongs in two ways; lobbying and capacity building.
It is a high time that PGK worked with the Kenya Golf Union, KGU, to map out all the roles in golf clubs that holders require adequate knowledge of the game. This should be followed by a comprehensive job profiling exercise and recommendations on staffing. For example why can’t it be mandatory for every golf club affiliated to KGU to have a resident professional? Whereas some roles like Greenkeeper and Golf Admin may be considered surplus to the requirements of some clubs, thanks to cash constraints, it will be beneficial in the long run to have such positions created and filled with personnel with the right skill set. The collaboration between PGK and KGU can culminate in the production of a fantastic human resource blue print for golf-specific roles in clubs. And while at it, PGK should lobby to have its members strategically positioned in the front row.
But this will remain a mirage until PGK invests purposely in capacity building for its membership. Granted, golf talent may either be innate or inculcated through psychomotor conditioning. However for a professional golfer to become a golf professional, s/he must undergo rigorous formal training. Scanning through the South Africa PGA apprentice curriculum some of the courses that caught my eye include Theory and Teaching the Golf Swing, Equipment Technology and Club repairs, Business Management, Rules of Golf and Tournament Administration and Sports Science.
Whereas we do not have golf schools in Kenya, we cannot justify the dearth of golf management acumen among our professional golfers. PGK can work on partnerships with her counterparts in South Africa or Europe to grant her members access to top notch training. This could be through online training, in-country visits by renowned PGA trainers, sponsorship of members to attend training in South Africa, negotiated discount packages for individuals etc. Armed with the specialised knowledge and credible certificates to boot, our professional golfers will form a rich talent pipeline that golf clubs will tap into whenever vacancies in golf management roles arise.
It is the dream of every golfer to play the sport up to the highest level as a professional. However we must appreciate early enough that not all players will experience a breakthrough in the paid ranks. Our professional golfers must embrace specialization and position themselves to take advantage of the unexploited opportunities in golf management in Kenya.