Brianna recently joined the New England PGA team after starting her career in Central New York. Brianna's career started when she got an internship with the PGA and fell in love with working in a golf environment. She played Division III college golf, and although she didn't choose the Class A path (but hopes to do so), she has shown that the golf industry has great career options for anyone passionate about the game with a love for growing it. Brianna has definitely found her niche in the industry with her incredible skills. Here is her story:
What is your current role in the industry?
I am the Junior Golf and Player Development Manager. I oversee everything that is juniors, the growth of the game, and anything that just gets people playing. This includes women, amateurs, veterans, you know, PGA HOPE, PGA REACH, or anything that falls under the foundation. So, anyone that wants to pick up a club and go golf, I cover that.
Tell me a bit about how you got into this position. What was your journey?
So, I'm 24. I went to college at a state school in Cortland, New York, which is 30 minutes south of Syracuse and got my degree after four years in sports management with a concentration in event facility management. I always knew that I wanted to do something with setting up events and basically doing the behind the scenes and putting something together for a bigger cause. I'm kind of very enthralled with the idea of giving back to the community, even if it's not put on the headline and everyone knows that I did it, as long as I can make an impact on someone else's life. That's what kind of gets me up in the morning.
I was a junior golfer from the age of nine. I played on the junior tour in Central New York. I liked to golf, but I wasn't really good at it. And then as I got older, 16-17, I was like, "You know what, let me play golf in college." Transition to graduating college, I had an opportunity to do an internship with Central New York PGA, which I ended up doing in 2016, and then again in 2018. So, I was a two-year intern, which was really awesome that they allowed me to come back.
Then, something happened with our tournament director in Central New York and he decided to go down a different path and leave the golf industry. So, there was a position opening up. Then all of a sudden, the player development director, who I worked under, up and left two weeks after. So, we go from a staff of four to having a staff of two with one being an intern. It was kind of a crazy summer. The summer of 2018, I went from being an intern to being an associate player development director, and then fast forward, November of 2018 rolls around and I got offered the position of player development director after they saw me keep myself afloat for that summer. It was like, "I think she can handle it."
I was there for two years and I was able to grow the program and I doubled the revenue from 2019 to 2020, which nobody saw coming. In Central New York, we were able to have a lot of participation and provide safe events and make it fun. On the player development side, with the help of Martha Wells, we were able to start the CNYPGA Women's Association, which is for all women in our Central New York community. It's not limited to PGA members, but it encompasses anyone who's a female who just wants to get into the game, and provides playing opportunities for those who maybe aren't a member at a facility. There's no requirement for a GHIN handicap. We would put on events and let anyone who wants to come out to play have the opportunity to build the community. Those opportunities and accomplishments I had in 2020 caught the attention of the New England PGA and they opened up the junior golf and player development position here in New England and I applied for it. They looked at my resume, they looked at the experience I've had over the past couple of years, I went through the interview process and here I am.
While studying sports management in college, did you know you wanted to go into the golf industry?
I had no idea what I wanted to do. Originally, I wanted to get into football. I was like, the craziest football fan. Obviously, I had always played golf, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it as career. It was actually my college coach, Joey Tesori, who ended up being my coworker at Central New York, which is kind of funny. He actually threw the internship opportunity at me and was like, "You really should do this because the best experience you're gonna get in this business is through an internship, so I really think you should do it."
And I did it in 2016, at 19 years old, and I don't know what it was, but I just fell in love with the setup of golf courses and working with PGA professionals and working with the juniors and meeting these families. It was exactly what I wanted to do, which was make an impact in the community, but not necessarily be the focus of it. At the end of the day, it's not about what you do personally, but it's about the legacy you leave behind. So, that was kind of what brought me into the golf industry.
Did you consider becoming a PGA member?
I kind of flirted with the idea of being a member and I looked into the schooling of it. And at the time, I think it was just when PGA was changing over the curriculum, because they wanted to attract more of the younger generation, because it was too, I wouldn't say complicated to get into the program, but they weren't retaining the right amount of people. So, I looked into the program, I talked to Joey Tesori, I talked to my boss at Central New York at the time, because they're all PGA members. I thought about it, but I wanted the quality of my work to take precedence over me becoming a PGA member. It's not off the table. Once I get into a rhythm and get my quality of work to the place I want it to be, I think I'll revisit that at some point.
What did your typical day look like in your role in New York?
I managed a lot of programs. We had our junior programs, we had our Drive, Chip, and Putts, we had our Junior League, and then I also managed all of our social media as well. Typically, I'd go into the office or start my day with any emails, take care of anything pressing that needed my immediate attention or make sure something was going correctly with any of our social media or anything that had to do with finances; I wanted to make sure that was done first. And then after that, I would check on our Green$ Card, which is our discount golf pass, but ours is always changing, so PGA pros can call and change the deal anytime and people are buying it throughout the entirety of the year. I would make sure that there were no outstanding or pending payments, or check if I had to send out any Green$ Cards to anybody via mail or get back in touch with the facility that wanted to tweak it a little bit.
After that, I would pretty much check the social media. I managed our website and I managed our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And then after that, I'd focus on the junior programs. I'd really focus on the junior tour, but depending on the season, Drive, Chip, and Putt picks up around this time too. And obviously with PGA Junior League starting at the beginning of the year and with the player and coach registration opening, I would just help our PGA pros make sure they got registered. If any parents were reaching out to look for facilities, I'd get in touch with the facility.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely the kids and the families. Taking into consideration that I'm not too much older than them, I still remember back when I was on the junior tour. I definitely have more of a clear cut understanding of the stages that these kids are going through and when they need to be pushed in the direction of, "Okay, you need to get out of your US Kids clubs and get into real clubs or maybe go see a PGA Professional and get a swing coach and maybe we have some scholarships available for you." Maybe I can help open up some doors that they didn't even know were there for them. That's definitely what keeps me going.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
I know a lot of times people say, "Oh, what do you guys do in the winter? Like, you're probably off because there's really not much that's going on? Everything happens in the summer, right?" And I would totally disagree. All of the work happens in the winter for scheduling events. Just keeping the lines of communication open with the PGA professionals, especially with ever-changing circumstances when springtime comes around and people up and move to different facilities, that's definitely the challenging part.
What are your future aspirations in the industry?
I definitely would want to become a PGA member. That's something that I've always wanted to do but I never knew if I could, because of my playing ability. But like I said, once I get a handle on exactly how much responsibility I have, and get into a rhythm, I feel like, especially during February to April, or October to December timeframe, I feel like I'll be able to get to that level, pass the PAT, and go through the levels. So that's definitely something I want to do.
I wouldn't say I want to do something other than junior golf and player development at this time, just because I have so much more time to experience things and meet people and network, but I definitely love the administration side. I love the PGA of America and I love golf. I think I would love to stay on the administration side with the sections, but I'm open to maybe becoming a GM at a club down the road if the opportunity presents itself...maybe somewhere warmer?
Brianna mentioned being nervous about the Playing Ability Test, which all PGA Associates must take to become a PGA member. Recently, the PGA started to allow college golf scores as PAT scores, which took a lot of pressure off of me and would take a lot of pressure off of someone like Brianna. Now, it doesn't have to be a limiting factor!
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
I would say, especially in a male-dominated industry like the PGA, I think having women in the industry definitely gives a different perspective to situations and lends a different set of ears to conversations that I feel women weren't always welcomed to. And obviously, I think we all are a little bit more optimistic that women are definitely more involved in the golf industry than they were the last 10 years and I would definitely say it's going in the right direction. But from a business standpoint, I think that little girls who are coming up through the ranks playing golf, whether it's just for fun with their friends, or maybe they are shooting low scores and they're starting to pick up some attention, having women to look up to who aren't just on a TV screen, but also maybe down the road or in the town over at the events that they they're playing in, it will give them an opportunity to strive for something more.
I feel like girls are just looking for somebody to relate to, especially in the golf industry.
How do you think we can get more women working in these leadership positions in the golf industry?
You definitely have to have women in the industry that they can talk to and relate to. I mean, for me, I never had a female friend or counterpart in business until I met Martha Wells. She was so easygoing and so open and so understanding and just everything that you need when you're that fresh-out-of-college girl going into a male-dominated industry just looking for somebody to relate. Like, "Hey, have you ever felt this way? Have you ever walked onto a golf course and felt like you have eyes on you or felt guilty about your shoulders being out or having long hair or you just felt like out of place like that?"
That was the vibe I always got being on the golf courses and I never knew why. And Martha talked to me a little bit and said, "You know, it's not you. It's definitely them. They just aren't used to it and they make you feel guilty for just being you and you just have to be confident and stand your ground." She told me that you're not going to change because somebody else has a staring problem or you're not going to change because you're the only female on the course at that time. That's not your fault. If anything, you're making a stand saying, "Well, there should be more women here," and I'm going to be the girl that's going to be here so that more women feel comfortable and show up.
What advice or words of inspiration would you give to young women that are starting out their careers in the golf industry?
Just because you don't look like everybody else and just because you don't sound the same way they do doesn't mean you're not meant to be there. That's definitely something I'm struggling with now after moving from central New York to here. I'm not used to my surroundings, and everything is new to me. Even my coworkers are new. And I get sometimes I get into these overthinking ruts where I look around, and I'm like, "There's nobody else here like me," or "They're all so much older than me." You almost feel like you're such an outsider that you're like, "Why am I even here? Should I just go back to what I was comfortable with?" But I would definitely say just because you don't look the same, just because you don't sound the same, just because you don't have that "it factor" yet, it doesn't mean you're not going to get there. If anything, just stay true to who you are and stay confident. You got there based on your hard work and your outgoing personality, so just be who you are and it's going to propel you forward. Just do what you are confident and passionate about because as long as you're doing something that makes you happy, then you'll never get sick of going to work.
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