Class B PGA Apprentice Assistant Golf Professional Sarah Bejgrowicz may only be 28-years-old, but she’s already had enough golf jobs to write a book. Sarah’s story is a good ol’ climb the ladder golf story.
Currently, while she works to complete the Professional Golf Management program on route to her Class A membership, Sarah is the lead professional for women’s golf at the prestigious Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC. With one of the largest Women’s Golf Associations in the Carolinas at 200 members, it’s no small job.
But how did a Pennsylvania gal who loved golf find her way down south to the 27-hole Jack Nicklaus design, Distinguished Emerald Club golf course, Governors Club?
Simply put, she took the opportunities that came her way and she worked really hard at them. Sarah first truly considered a PGA apprenticeship when her boss at Deer Brook Golf Club in Shelby, NC, suggested it.
“I had an awesome boss, Derrick Dellinger, and he told me you have a lot of potential to be good in this industry but you have to do this apprenticeship.”
Back up ten years or so… I first met Sarah when we were both about 14 years old playing an AJGA junior golf tournament in Happy Valley, Pa. We immediately bonded over our love of golf and football. She backed those Nittany Lion rascals and I was a die-hard Buckeye fan (we still love our home teams!).
But we both headed south towards the warmth to play collegiate golf in North Carolina. Sarah was just down the road from my University of North Carolina at Campbell University.
Campbell is well known for its PGM program that allows students to accomplish much of what they need to earn a Class A PGA Professional membership. However, if you want to play golf for Campbell then you can’t participate in their PGM program. Sarah is a gamer.
“I really wanted to pursue competitive golf. And I wouldn’t go back and change that decision even if I could… being on a golf team was awesome.”
Thus, her road to becoming a PGA Golf Professional didn’t begin in college like it maybe could have.
After graduating from Campbell with a degree in Exercise and Sports Science, Sarah signed up to work as an AJGA summer intern. Now, I’ve known a few folks to do that job- it’s not for the faint of heart! From early Spring until late Fall, the AJGA interns roam all over America’s golf world setting up the best run junior tournaments in the nation. Challenging as it was, it was one of Sarah’s favorite times of her life.
“Being an intern with the AJGA was an amazing experience. How many times in your life do you wake up in Atlanta for training and next thing hop in and van and get to be in Colorado to set up for an event. I loved driving all over the country with my amazing coworkers. I learned more in those four months than I ever have anywhere else.”
But like so many seasonal jobs for the wild post-grad millennial, the internship would end, and a bigger paycheck would be needed for “real life.” After a brief stint playing professionally on the SunCoast Tour which ended in a case of mono, Sarah looked elsewhere for more work in the golf industry.
Enter work as an Assistant Women’s Golf Coach – first at her alma mater Campbell and then at Gardner-Webb. Simultaneously she worked the golf shop at Deer Brook Golf Club. That’s where Head Pro Derrick Dellinger first told her to go after this Club Professional business.
Enter… more hard work.
Now, I’ve also had a few friends who have worked through the PGM Apprentice program but I’ve never bothered to ask any of them about the process.
I asked Sarah because, well, that’s what you do in an interview. Woah! Sarah has made it through two out of the three levels so far and has solid insight on the process.
First, I asked her about the costs.
“By my calculations, it’s going to have cost me by the end, somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000. Each of the three levels is around $2,000. Then add in the prerequisite fee and PAT fee and etcetera and it’s a lot.”
But it doesn’t just take money to earn the Class A membership, there is also a lot of time, smarts, and persistence involved. Each level involves a five-day tutorial in Port Saint Lucy, Florida. After the tutorial, apprentices must do the necessary online work for their Work Experience Portfolio. Some folks get through the portfolio faster than others but apprentices have roughly two years to work through each level.
Once the portfolio work from a level is complete, then a four-hour test over the material ensues at a testing center. Apprentices only get so many chances to pass. Each attempt costs em’ too.
In each level, apprentices learn anything from merchandise purchasing techniques to business models, to cart barn management, to restaurant management, to golf course set up and beyond.
Another hurdle in the process is The Player Ability Test, which requires apprentices to shoot a certain score at a PGA selected golf event (different requirements for men and women). The PAT was no problem for Sarah, a college golf veteran. Neither were the Level One and Two tests, although she did admit to stressin’ a bit.
“I enter a new stress level when I have to do those things! You CANNOT wait until the last minute to study! It’s not physics but there is a lot of material to memorize. The terminology is what the PGA has in the manual and sometimes it isn’t what you’re used to.”
Okay, so this PGM thing requires that you shoot a certain number on a given day, pass some four-hour tests, knock out some online portfolio stuff, get to a few five-day class sessions in Florida… surely that must be the whole process right? Nope.
The PGM Program also requires that you are employed in the golf industry during your time as an apprentice. Sarah has got that part on lockdown.
As a Governor’s Club assistant pro, she not only leads the women’s golf program, she is also very involved with the Club’s overall tournament operations, gives a handful of lessons every week, helps make merchandise decisions, runs the Player and Par class for the First Tee every Tuesday, sets up Tuesday Ladies day, and of course, responds to any sort of random problem the boss throws her way.
All in all, the regular season is usually a 60-hour work week while the offseason cools off to about 40 hours!
“The busy season is not for the faint of heart, but once you make it through, the offseason seems really gratifying,” she told me.
So it’s a lot of work but she must love it, right?
What’s her favorite part about working at GC?
“Definitely learning about every single member and what they’ve done. So many members had fascinating careers.”
She also has a real soft spot for teaching too.
“I love to teach and watch students get better because if I can keep the game growing by helping people get better more people are going to want to keep playing.”
I asked Sarah, what sort of challenges came with teaching both men and women?
“It really depends on the individual but with a male, I’m usually more direct and sometimes with a woman I need to take a different route. But, overall, my communications skills sometimes need to vary for the individual.”
Perhaps, one of the biggest complaints you will always hear from Club Pros is that they don’t get out to actually play the game they love as much as they’d like to. Sarah is no different.
“I might get to the range once a week during in-season. One of my goals for 2017 is to play more golf with the membership.”
Playing with membership is a good, practical option that is also legal under the PGM program unlike playing any sort of amateur events. Unfortunately for players like Sarah, it’s not as easy to find professional events to play in as it is to find amateur events, but the title Professional comes with its sacrifices.
So, maybe you’re at home and you were thinking about becoming a PGM Professional but you’re reading all these hoops (I didn’t even talk about the Final Project!) and thinking maybe not? Or maybe you’re just thinking why in general? For Sarah the answer is easy.
“I wanted to be able to put PGA next to my name. Once you have the PGA trademark next to your name, your marketability goes way up and it shows you’ve reached a level of professionalism in your career.”
When she told me that, I was left wondering about the other option to Club Professionalism that involves a trademark… And that is the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Certification program. That sounds perfect for a gal, right?
The LPGA T&CP is a little less expensive, coming in at around five grand plus travel, and ranging over three levels like the PGM Program.
Well Sarah, why PGA and not LPGA T&CP?
“The PGA membership reaches a really broad audience and is easier to recognize, so it’s the first one I decided to go for. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but the PGA can give you a little more. The LPGA is equally as important because, to my understanding, it focuses a little more on teaching. A woman’s insight to teaching is invaluable.”
After she finishes up with the PGM program, Sarah intends to follow through with the LPGA T&CP certification and earn a dual membership. One advantage to doing so in such an order is that the LPGA T&CP allows you to earn their certificate on top of the PGM certification at a discounted price.
But, just because Sarah does not yet have her foot in the door with the LPGA T&CP Program does not mean that she isn’t active with Women Club Professionals.
Last year she was very proud to be involved with the first of the PGA’s Women Club Professional national meetings.
“The meeting I attended was down in Hilton Head at Moss Creek Golf Club. We had professionals from all over the place and it was a really great meeting for all the ladies. We were able to talk over some of the challenges female golf professionals face frequently and come up with best practice ideas.”
Sarah added that having the voice of PGA Vice President, Suzy Whaley, so high up in the food chain of the PGA is a huge boost for women professionals like herself.
“She’s an awesome person and loves to grow the game of golf which is what it’s all about.”
For Sarah, sharing her love for the game is totally what it’s all about. Like most millennials, she’s had her moments where she maybe thought she should have tried a different industry.
“I think each job that I’ve had so far has made me think about my career path but every time it’s always come back to golf. Golf has given me so much. I have met so many people and traveled around the country so I want to keep in golf. It’s definitely been challenging… coaching or working or doing whatever, but it always makes me want to keep in golf!”
Considering Sarah’s work ethic, love for the game, and all around spirit, I’m using my authority here to go ahead and say— Golf too will benefit from hopefully having her around for a long time to come!
Allie White from Lancaster, Ohio, is a professional golfer and golf journalist. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at Ohio University. With four years of experience on the Symetra Tour, a cut-made at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, and a 2016 Ohio Open Championship, White hopes to continue her golf career during her academic breaks.
“I grew up on an 88-acre farm in Southeast Ohio and currently live in the same area with my dog Finley where I cheer like crazy for all of my favorite Ohio sports teams. I love to play my guitar, listen to music, watch movies, and read good stuff!
My two biggest golf dreams are to play in Toledo Ohio’s LPGA event and to make it back to another US Open. I’m still hunting for that first hole in one!”