PGA News

PGA welcomes new Members at Graduation Ceremony

 

More than 120 graduates celebrated their success and achievements with family and friends at the University of Birmingham as they were officially welcomed into PGA Membership.

The historic Great Hall at the heart of the University campus once again proved to be a fitting setting as graduates were joined by family, friends and staff in what remains one of the most important dates in the PGA calendar.

“The graduation is the biggest event in our year,” said Paul Wiseman, PGA Executive Director – Education. “It’s not just the biggest day for the education department, it’s also the biggest day for the Association as we welcome a new cohort into PGA Membership. 

“The graduates today might not understand the significance of how important this day is. Many of these Trainees will be celebrating the end of the PGA Training Programme, but this is the start of something. This is the start of a membership and a relationship with The PGA that we hope will last 30/40 years and take them into a wide spectrum of roles and careers within the golf industry.

“As Director of the PGA Training Programme I just have an enormous sense of pride. This isn’t just a celebration of the PGA Foundation Degree or the Diploma for Higher Education, there’s so many different elements of the programme that come together through internal and external collaboration – and it’s made even more challenging with the wide geographical distribution of the Trainees.”

Among those graduating was Josh, who is based at Apsley Guise and Woburn Sands Golf Club. He was working in the construction industry before deciding to follow his passion by enrolling on The PGA’s Training Programme. In addition to graduating, Rowles was also named 2024 Trainee of the Year – an award sponsored by long-term education partner Titleist.

“I’m extremely proud and humbled to win this award, it’s a lovely validation for all the hard work I’ve put in,” he said. “My journey to becoming a PGA Professional is not what you’d say is a normal route, as I was working as a project manager in a very stressful environment. 

“Taking the plunge and joining the PGA Training Programme at the age of 28 is probably the best thing I’ve ever done and this award is the icing on the cake. To anyone out there thinking about making a change I’d just say go for it. Working in an industry that you’re passionate about is amazing and I can’t wait for the rest of my career now.”

To cap a day to remember, Rowles also won the Custom Fitting & Technology Award, sponsored by PGA Partner, Golf Pride.

Another graduate to be honoured was Lucy Goddard. A former Ladies European Tour player based at North Middlesex Golf Club, She was named 2024 Female PGA Trainee of the Year and received the Beverly Lewis Trophy, named after the former PGA Captain and sponsored by the Ladies European Tour.

Reflecting on the award, Goddard said: “It was a real shock, but a very nice surprise. I’ve had a great three years and I’m really pleased I did the course. I’ve learnt so much that I can take into my coaching to help other people and inspire them to achieve more in golf. 

“The learning doesn’t stop, and it’s great that The PGA provides ongoing CPD to help us to continue to develop. I’m really excited for the future and being a PGA Member. I hope that by winning the Beverley Lewis Trophy I can also inspire other women and girls to follow in my footsteps and start their own journey in golf.”

 

Dainty on board with Stoke by Nayland’s sustainability principles

Sustainability is something that most people speak about in positive terms – but Stoke by Nayland Resort and PGA Professional Simon Dainty are doing far more than just talk the talk.

Dainty is the Golf and Business Development Manager at the Essex location and part of a team that is really making a difference.

The 36-hole hotel and spa’s banner headline is that it powers its own facility via an Anaerobic Digester (AD) plant located at neighbouring sister company, Boxford Farms. Not only that, but any surplus electricity produced is sold on to the grid.

Everything from grass trimmings, to maize, apple pomace and waste fruit are fed into the AD plant. “What comes out at the end is soil-association approved organic fertiliser, which we use on the golf course and also sell,” says Dainty.

Stoke by Nayland, which in the past played host to European Senior Tour events, also has its own water source. A cascading four-lake system harvests rainwater and means that there is no requirement for mains-supply irrigation on the Gainsborough and Constable courses.

Dainty, whose journey in the sport started at Stoke by Nayland in the early 1990s when he was a junior, is using the golf assets, especially the pro shop, to help awareness of the resort’s sustainability principles.

“I like the idea of us creating less waste,” says the 42-year-old, who recalls that in bygone days the sight of plastic cups strewn all over the golf course used to annoy him. “Why not make a little change to paper cups?” he suggests.

In fact, Dainty has taken best-hydration practice a step further by offering a free water refill service for stainless steel flasks purchased from the pro shop. The aim, of course, is to significantly reduce sales of plastic bottles.

He has other quick-fix green solutions that more PGA Professionals might like to consider. “The little wins would be along the lines of what you can tweak easily,’ says Dainty, whose employment at Stoke by Nayland began in 2018. 

“We don’t stock any plastic tees anymore – they’re all wooden or bamboo. There’s a tiny little increase in cost to the consumer, but we don’t offer any other option.

“Leather gloves instead of the plastic all-weather gloves. I don’t want to say we don’t have any of the non-leather gloves, but trying to move in that direction is what we’re starting and want to continue with.

“Even some of the displays we use are wooden now, not plastic. It just depends on what you want to spend your money on and invest in.

“The goal would be to implement things slowly but surely and any little improvement is beneficial.”

In terms of golf wear, Dainty has firm ideas of the direction of travel that he would like consumers to take.

“We’re now taking on sustainable clothing, all organic cotton. Even the packaging – the little glue strips holding the packages together – has non-vinyl glue and the ink paint in printing is non vinyl. We’re trying to get away from the acrylic and the plastic and that side of it.”

It’s also worth flagging up Stoke by Nayland has major expansion plans. ‘We are extending our hotel, spa and building another one and a half golf courses,’ Dainty explains. “We will be a 63-hole venue at some point.”

It appears that the resort has a bright future – and a green one, certainly.

Mckechin benefits from enlightening experience at Costa Rica Blind Golf Open

You’re always learning in this game. As a highly respected and valued PGA Professional, Alyson Mckechin spends her days passing on her bountiful pearls of wisdom to all walks of life. Her own golfing education, meanwhile, never stops.

Mckechin’s latest experience has certainly been enriching and enlightening as the 30-year-old savoured a week of competition, coaching and clinics at the inaugural Costa Rica Blind Golf Open. 

Swapping the Golf It! facility just off the Cumbernauld Road in Glasgow for the exotic jungle retreat of La Iguana took a bit of getting used to, mind you.

 “It was high 30s every day and 80 per cent humidity,” gasped Mckechin, who is the head of golf at The R&A’s pioneering community-based hub.

Mckechin was acting as the guide for her Golf It! colleague Barry McCluskey, who is one of the world’s leading blind amateur golfers and the son of the former Celtic footballer, George.

Despite the stifling Costa Rican conditions, the duo combined to fine effect and Mckechin steered McCluskey to a second-place finish in his category. Golf may be a very individual game but, in the disabled arena, the team ethic is to the fore.

“This was my first time acting as an official guide,” said Mckechin of this challenging yet hugely rewarding golfing experience. “The nerves were certainly flowing on the first tee. I hadn’t had that for a while.

“Barry has about eight per cent vision left. Our drill is that he puts a club in front of him, I move his shoulders into position where the target is, and then he’ll set himself up on that line. I stand behind him and make sure his feet, shoulders and clubface are all pointing in the right direction and then he pulls the trigger. 

“Once he’s hit it, I do a bit of a commentary about the strike, the line, where it’s coming down and what position it’s landed in so he gets the full picture of what’s happened and what the next shot will look like. Barry may be partially sighted but the feel of a good strike is the same for every golfer.”

Away from the cut-and-thrust of the tournament, Mckechin had the opportunity to work alongside PGA of America coach, Jose Quesada, who runs an all-embracing initiative for disabled golfers called Challenge Golf. 

“We had golfers there who were completely blind, others with one arm or one leg, and some on wheelchairs,” added McKechin. “It was amazing to work with them. 

“Most of them didn’t speak English but the reaction on their faces when they hit a good shot or got the ball in the hole was the common language between us. This is why PGA pros do what we do; to see that kind of joy. It was very powerful and hugely rewarding for me personally.”

Those informative sessions have certainly given Mckechin plenty of inspiration and motivation as she continues to drive the come-all-ye inclusivity that is one of the cornerstones of the Golf It! ethos.

“Going to Costa Rica was a real eye-opener for me,” she said. “I’m certainly drawing inspiration from that visit for what we can do in Glasgow. We are planning on doing some training with EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) with some of the pros here so that they are best prepared to deal with golfers with disabilities and make sure they get the most out of a lesson. 

“When I first started coaching golfers with a disability it was easy to get ahead of yourself. But you must take a step back and remember that the person you are coaching doesn’t have the ability to do certain things so need you need to adapt for them. We want to push this inclusivity because at Golf It! we want everyone to have a chance and put on classes for everyone.”

That welcoming, encouraging approach continues to reap rewards for the wider golfing community in the Glasgow area. “Uddingston Grammar School has a visually impaired unit so the students will come to Golf It! for an eight-week programme to kick things off,” said Mckechin of this new scheme. 

“Barry and I went into the school and he talked to the students about his experience of losing his sight and the journey he’s been on. There was a group of girls who came up to us afterwards and said: ‘We really want to try golf now after hearing that.’ Golf was something they didn’t think they’d be able to do but after hearing Barry’s story, they were really inspired to give it a go. That was quite humbling for us.”

A former Scottish Women’s Amateur champion, Mckechin turned pro and had a stint on the Ladies European Tour, but the rigours of life at the coalface eventually took a toll. The PGA provided a soothing sanctuary, however, and helped to energise her golfing career.

“When I came off the tour, I didn’t want to be one of those people who fell out of the game,” she reflected. 

“The training programme has been great, and I couldn’t be more grateful for what The PGA has done for me.

“You can carry this badge around the world, and it will open up tremendous opportunities. When I started my PGA training, I never thought that I would be working with The R&A and being part of a trailblazing facility like Golf It! It’s been an amazing journey.”