Eagle-Vail golf interns learn the ropes
Just before grabbing the group’s bags to take them to the car, Greenwood flicked his towel a good 15 feet.
He got nothing but net, er, bucket.
Greenwood, along with fellow Ferris State University golf-management students, Scott Justman, Matt Smith, Greg Tuhy and Glenn Hagberg, are spending the summer at Eagle-Vail learning all the tricks of the trade, from business operations to teaching and even to the ever-critical 3-pointer with the towel.
“Our plans this year were to get them as integrated as soon as possible so that they would be exposed to the entire Eagle-Vail operation, meaning the Willow Creek Par-3, the Eagle-Vail golf shop, outside services, rangering, starting,” Eagle-Vail director of golf Mark Kizzire said. “Anything and everything that we do here, they’re getting to see and touch.”
Kizzire’s connection to the golf-management program at Ferris State (Mich.), one of the leading institutions in the nation in the field, started when he was working at Troon at Scottsdale, Ariz., as director of golf there from 1989-1991. After moving to Vestavia G.C. near Birmingham, Ala., Kizzire worked with interns from the Mississippi State University program.
Last November, Kizzire and Bill Vancuren went to Ferris State to participate in a golf-management roundtable. While there, they met with approximately 35 candidates and, after an arduous selection process, ended up with the aforementioned aspiring five golf pros.
For the uninitiated, there is a lot more involved in being a golf pro than having a good game. Greenwood, Justman, Smith, Tuhy and Hagberg have already begun their studies accounting, economics and business. They’ll graduate with a degree in business and golf management as well as participating in the PGA Apprentice Program.
As with an internship in any field, some things are more fun others. There are the rote activities like cleaning clubs or shuttling golfers back and forth from the range to the first tee. Rangering out the course can be also tough, given that golfers often view the guy in the cart as “the bad guy,” when the ranger is just trying to make sure everybody is getting around in 4 1/2 hours or so.
And the hours can be long.
“I guess a normal day would be, like today, I was here at 5:45 a.m.,” Smith said. “I opened the golf shop. Some days, I might do that in the morning or I’ll also have work outside 2-9 or I’ll be working at the par-3 course a little bit.”
But after talking talking with some of the group, it’s clear that there are plenty more positive aspects.
“My favorite part would have to be the teaching part,” Greenwood said. “It’s great to see people – just how much respect you get – when you can show someone how to play golf. They actually hit it a good shot and they can’t believe it. That’s a great feeling.”
“My favorite thing about the job is meeting people getting a real feel for the golf course,” Smith said. “Just kind of sitting back and seeing what Mark, the head pro here, does. I’m getting a feel for the golf business and what goes on.”
In the end, the program is a win-win experience for all involved. Eagle-Vail benefits from the enthusiasm and hard work of the quintet. But there’s one thing that’s more important, according to Kizzire.
“It’s a commitment on our side. Bill and I spend a lot of time with them and that’s the fun part of it,” he said. “To be able to pass on knowledge and experience that we’ve had, whether it be in retail, golf-course management, reviewing a financial statement, a golf lesson, it’s all a lot of fun.”
Meanwhile, the interns are gaining skills that will be invaluable to them in their careers.
“I started playing golf when I was about 10 and fell in love with it ever since then,” Greenwood said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else besides golf. This program was perfect for me.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.