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Going for the green

EKU PGM students at PGA of America golf course
EKU’s golf management program trains students in the business behind the swing

Business Lexington
October 12, 2011
by Erin Brock, contributing writer

Lexington, KY - At Eastern Kentucky University, you can earn your bachelor’s degree in business administration at the same time you’re learning how to chip, putt and get out of bunkers.

The golf management program at EKU is the only program of its kind accredited by the Professional Golf Association (PGA) — in not only Kentucky, but the seven surrounding states as well. The program takes four and a half years to complete, but at the end, students have a degree as well as the skill set to become a full-fledged member of the PGA.

“If they want to be in the golf industry, going ahead and coming to school and finishing their PGA education as well as their bachelor’s degree is a bonus. Otherwise, they’re going to go for four years of school, and then it’s going to take them four to five years once they’re out to finish their PGA education,” said Kim Kincer, director of the program.

Kincer has an extensive background in the golf industry, having worked as the head golf professional at Tates Creek Golf Course and Kearney Hill Links in Lexington, in addition to helping run the PGA golf management program at Methodist College in North Carolina.

In just five years, Kincer has used her experience to help the program grow into a successful staple at EKU.

“I’ve been able to put my thumbprint on this program,” Kincer said.

Students in the program, which is housed in the College of Business and Technology, are required to complete both the general education requirements to earn a degree in business administration as well as the requirements listed by the PGA. These include attending PGA seminars and workshops, completing 16 months of cooperative education experiences, and passing the PGA Playing Ability Test (PAT).

“The educational track that these kids take is very specific. They really need to be in the golf business; they want to be in the golf business,” Kincer said.

Graduates are qualified to work in all sectors of the golf industry, being trained to give instruction themselves, to manage a golf course, to perform maintenance on courses and equipment and to set up tournament programs, among other tasks. They must also be fairly good golfers themselves and are required to play in tournaments throughout the year.

The program’s students have access to a new facility with several different amenities, including an indoor putting green with state-of-the-art technology that helps correct putting strokes, an indoor golf simulator used to capture swing dynamics, a workshop where students learn how to repair clubs and an outdoor practice area.

Senior Hank Whalen said the facilities, as well as the concept of the program itself, are extremely advantageous.

“It’s kind of a dual thread,” Whalen said. “You get the business and marketing as well (as a program) specialized toward golf … If something comes up along the way that will help us in the business aspect, it’s nice to have all that to draw from.”

Students are required to intern for three months every summer, and after completing academic requirements, they must finish a final seven-month internship. Students are encouraged to work in several different kinds of environments all over the country, including resorts and public golf courses.

“Typically you see a lot of first-year guys and girls like to stay around home, wherever they’re from. As you get further along in the program, you get a little more adventurous; you want to go out there,” said Tyler Caviness, program coordinator.

Currently there are 112 students enrolled in the program, with only four females, despite a demand for female golf professionals.

“If you are a young lady that plays a reasonable game of golf and can pass the PAT and wants to be in the golf industry, you’re probably going to graduate and the job that you get will be awesome, and you will be paid more than your male counterpart,” Kincer said.

However, the program has grown significantly in the past few years. The program started in August 2006 with about 20 students. Those students have graduated, and the program boasts 100 percent job placement thus far. Alumni work in locations all over the country, from Malone Golf Club in New York to the Lake Buena Vista Resort in Florida. These graduates offer valuable networking opportunities for current students.

Some graduates stay in the region, working at clubs in Louisville, southern Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

“Kentucky, out of all the sections in the PGA, has the smallest number of golf professionals, so there’s not as large of a demand in the state of Kentucky. But in this region, there’s a pretty large demand,” Kincer said.

Ross Lingenfelder, player development and recruiting coordinator, acknowledges that recruiting students from Kentucky is the program’s first priority, but due to the program’s novelty in this region, students come from all over.

“We’re bringing in students to EKU to visit from all parts of the country,” Lingenfelder said.

Caviness agreed.

“This is the perfect program for this particular type of institution because of the physical location of the university; it’s a reasonably sized school. There are a lot of attractive things about this program at Eastern in this part of the country. So we can reasonably touch a large region,” he said.

With the current economic status of the country, some worry about trying to support oneself in a leisure industry such as golf.

“Right now, even though golf is a little flat, there’s over a million jobs in the golf industry. And there’s a lot of turnover. So our kids are going to be okay for a while,” Kincer said.

For more information on EKU’s golf management program, visit www.pgm.eku.edu.

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Published on October 13, 2011

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