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Friday, December 11, 2015

UNVL's PGA Golf Management Program

A rigorous program for future golf professionals

Story by Bill Bowman

OK, you’re a very good golfer and have a passion for the sport. You’ve seen golf professionals at the course and thought this is a job you just might want to pursue. After all, how tough can it be?

Well, you’re about to find out.

The UNLV’s PGA Golf Management program started in 2002 and Chris Cain, the director, has been showing future golf professionals the ins-and-outs of the program since 2004. It’s a job he doesn’t take lightly. In fact, he’s as dedicated to the program as the students are to the game.

“We are definitely looking for top student-athletes,” Cain says. “We want students who can enter with a 10-or-lower handicap, have passion for competitive golf and are academically prepared to complete our 4½-year degree program with their entering cohort. It’s not easy. They go pedal-to-the-metal from start to finish. And, they also work full-time in the industry during each summer semester.”

And it’s not just the golf swing that is emphasized. Cain also said the program teaches the business side such as merchandising all the way through turf grass management. Add in supervisory and customer relation skills and you’ve got a full plate. But there’s more. So much more.

“They will need a lot of knowledge of the sport itself…how it started, why it’s important to the community and how they can use everything they learn to help grow the game,” Cain adds.

Students like Chris Annicella come into the program knowing it’s going to be a challenge. But, he takes pride in the program.

“Most people think of the PGM Program as its own major,” says Annicella, who is finishing off his degree while working full-time as an assistant pro at TPC Las Vegas. “However, students in the program are earning a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management with a Concentration in Professional Golf Management. That means we are taking classes to become PGA Class A members as well as taking the same classes that every Hospitality Management student takes to become first-class resort managers.” 

But, Annciella was quick to add: “Now, don’t think that I am complaining for a moment despite the extra classes. I wouldn’t want to be any place else doing anything else. 

Still think it’s an easy job?

“The biggest misnomer is this isn’t an academically rigorous program,” Cain says. “And that couldn’t be further from the truth. The PGA program is part of the hospitality management major (through UNLV’s Harrah Hotel College), therefore students must meet the requirements of this major in addition to the PGA of America requirements to obtain membership—it’s tough. PGA Apprentices can spend four to six years going through the PGA’s educational program and we are asking students meet both requirements in a 4½-year academic program.”

But, the students aren’t complaining. “They are very excited to come to UNLV,” Cain says. “It’s not a discovery major. They are seeking out UNLV for this concentration. Much of the draw for the program comes from the support of the program in Las Vegas for the good of golf and they get even more excited with the engagement the game has with the Las Vegas community.”

There are around 100 students in the program at any one time and Cain has seen almost 100 graduates during his time. It’s very gratifying. “We take pride in that,” he says. “It’s part of a very rigorous program that engages the students within the industry immediately starting the program so the student will find out sooner rather than later whether this program is for them.”

And Cain adds that the program, like many others in college life, is not for everyone. “Most attrition will occur during the first year,” Cain says. “They will find out very soon if they want to do this for the rest of their lives. And if they do complete the program, the industry will get someone who is very passionate and knowledgeable about what they are doing.”

Oh, and don’t forget the golf. Yes, students do spend time on the course playing (and practicing) and that’s all part of the program. “Playing and learning how to teach the game is built into the curriculum,” Cain says. “You can’t go through the program and not be able to play. In fact, students will not graduate with the PGA concentration unless the student passes the PGA’s playing ability test prior to graduation. The majority of the students will be teaching the game or running the business of the game. We need to make sure they can play golf at a high level. If they are the golf professional at the club, playing well and being a successful teacher adds to their credibility and is part of the fabric of being a PGA Professional.”

The bottom line is simple. “They won’t be TOUR players,” Cain said. “But they will be very good golfers, who will help grow this great game and business into the future.” 

And they will be giving. Cain notes the students, as part of program requirements, serve more than 1,000 hours per semester for community events. “It’s important to us that they leave the program and realize that a big part of this is giving back,” he said. “If we create the culture of giving back while they are students, when they become proud alumni, the community in which they serve will benefit from this altruism.”


PGA Golf Management Program

4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas


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