I was introduced to Allison a few weeks ago when I found out she had been promoted to Head Golf Professional at the course an hour north of mine. In New Hampshire, and most places for that matter, that's hard to find. I was excited to get to know Allison and learn about her journey to this leadership position.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I am the Head Golf Professional at Laconia. I was the First Assistant in 2019 and then before 2019, I was just a seasonal assistant. So, I'm going into my fifth year up there.
When did you first get introduced to golf?
I was seven years old and my father and maternal grandfather both kind of got me into the game. At both of their respective clubs, they threw me into the junior clinics and then I would go out with them so I always just tell people I was about seven years old when I first got introduced.
When did you know you wanted to work in the golf industry?
Honestly, probably not until the end of college. I played at Youngstown State University in Ohio and I started working going into my sophomore year as just a shop girl at Youngstown Country Club. Essentially, I learned pretty much everything with the industry while I was there. I worked there for four or five years and when I was coming up to graduating, I had a business degree and I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I found a grad assistant position to coach and get my master's degree for two years at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. That kind of gave me some time to figure it out.
I didn't want to just jump right into the golf industry. You hear a lot of stuff like turnover and people burning out so I wanted to wait and see. I kind of knew right away that coaching was not where I wanted to go with my career, at least right now in my life, but maybe down the road.
Because of that, I was just kind of looking to expand my horizons and the PGA used to have a resume board, which I'm hoping they can bring back. But the resume board is where you could just put up your resume on the PGA website. Basically, you could just scroll through and look at anyone who's looking for a job, see the resume and then somebody can reach out. That's actually how I ended up in New Hampshire. I was looking to kind of get out of Youngstown Country Club because I wanted to, again, expand what I was doing. Because unfortunately, there really wasn't an opportunity to further myself in just being a shop girl, to put it nicely. So my current boss, Todd Rollins, was totally fine hiring me as an assistant for the summer so I could go back and finish my degree.
When did you start the PGM Program?
Right away when I went to work at Laconia, I registered. I took my PAT on a Tuesday, I took my pre-qualifying exams on a Wednesday and then I was leaving for Laconia, like Friday. Thankfully, I passed everything. I got my PGA book work done in about 25 months, which I think I would have got it done sooner if I didn't have that six months gap where I was waiting to attend the seminar to start my book work. I just kind of zipped through the program as quickly as I could.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
To me, whether it's my juniors, women, members or non-members, or any student that I teach, when you see them light up and they tell you, 'I did this today. I had my best round. I got over the pond on 15.' You know, things like that. I had a non-member last year come to me in the spring because she just couldn't get her driver airborne so I worked with her. It was the most rewarding thing because the next week or so she emailed me saying something like, 'I shocked everybody in my league, they were jaw-dropped,' because she was a very high handicapper. It's just nice to see people getting success and also being able to build a relationship with people. I think that's the most rewarding part of my job because you want to see them do well, you know? So, that's what I love about it.
What are some of the challenges you've faced along the way?
I will say to anyone starting out in the industry, it can be tough getting adjusted to the long hours, but also being sure of your teaching skills. I think it's always kind of nerve-wracking at first because I think a lot of times we self-doubt, 'Am I really a good teacher?' Or sometimes you get a student that's really struggling and then you're like, 'Okay, is it me? Or do we just needed to go about it a different way?' So, I think sometimes it's just trying to trust yourself but also being open to expanding your knowledge. That's one thing I really, really like to do. Thankfully, my club backs us up on going further with our education. I did my golf operations certification and I've gone to teaching and coaching seminars. I think doing any type of continuing education is the best option to when you feel like you're stuck or struggling.
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
Hands down, it provides opportunities for female members, non-members, whether you're private or public. It creates a better opportunity for those women to get into the game. I don't know if it was when I was in Florida at the PGA Show, but somebody was talking about his daughter in her mid-20s who is starting to get into golf after playing other sports. He was saying how the daughter went to a golf course and there was no female working; it was just all male-dominated and she didn't feel comfortable. The PGA of America has really big proponent on junior golf and women's golf being the future of our sport. And, you know, unfortunately, we're still under 5% makeup of the industry, give or take.
Of the 29,000 PGA members, only 5% of them are female in addition to about 1,700 LPGA members. Although women work in other aspects of the industry that may not require PGA membership, the amount of women that are visible at green grass facilities is very limited.
That's why, and I hate saying this, but women are in demand, whether it's public or private or a resort because membership directors or general managers know that having a female working in some aspect at that facility goes a long way. I usually connect with the female membership a little differently. They're going to ask you questions that they don't feel comfortable asking guys. And I think a lot of people don't realize what goes through a woman's mind on a daily basis when she's coming to the golf course.
Do you feel your experience differs from the experience of a man in the same position?
At the end of the day, I don't really differ too much. Men can do the same thing equally as well as women and vice versa. I do think my relationship with my female membership is completely different from a lot of people and I also get a lot of respect from the male membership too. I'll go out and play the blue tees or white tees or whoever I'm playing with, whether it's the seniors or the younger guys, I'll play the tees they're playing so I think women can be a little bit more versatile. I think men should take the opportunity to play with their female membership more and that even includes playing from the forward tees and hitting iron shots. I think your women will become more comfortable too and it's just fun to get to know your members on a different level.
I'm a big believer in needing to push yourself and do the best work you can.
What are your future aspirations in the golf industry?
Whether I do stay at Laconia or move on, I would ideally like to be in a Head Professional position or a Director of Golf position. I am open, down the road, to maybe looking into the general management side of a facility, but I really do like the operational side from a golf standpoint. I always look at tournament operations or being a tournament director as something really ideal. But I really enjoy what I do right now working with members and giving them the best experience they can get. So I definitely think that's where I'll still be whether I'm in New England or another state at some point.
If you had any words of inspiration or advice for young women beginning their careers in the golf industry or considering going into the golf industry, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to fail. Don't get discouraged. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there because like I said, I took a chance taking a job in New Hampshire, where I've been to the state once in my entire life and it was during a snow storm. I literally knew nothing, I knew zero about where I was moving. Not every job works out but if I had never took that job, there's no way I'd be where I am right now with my career and I really believe everything happens for a reason. Just stay hungry in the sport, seek new ideas and invest in yourself.
You can follow Allison (@alixomitz) on Instagram and remember to follow @golf.hers!