Payton has known she wanted to work in the golf industry since she was about seven years old. Not only is she passionate about her role in the industry, she is most passionate about her love for the game of golf. Payton studied Professional Golf Management in college and works every day to make more and more people fall in love with the game.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I came from Florida being a full time PGA teaching professional and I actually wasn't even looking for a job but it just plopped into my lap and I made my way up to Darien, Connecticut, where I would be teaching a lot. So right now, I'm an assistant golf professional, but I do the majority of the teaching and I also run the entire ladies golf program there. I assist with the men's events and all of the other club functions, but my big reach is teaching, helping the women, and then also opening up my book to whoever is there at the club. It's been a fun experience.
Is working in the golf industry something you knew you always wanted to do?
Golf has been in my blood. Before my parents had gotten a babysitter, they wanted to go golfing for a date and they took me in the little baby carrier and I rode in the middle of the golf cart while they were golfing when I was just a baby. I actually started to swing and everything around four. I have an older brother and my whole family plays, so it was a whole family experience. We knew that Sunday after church, if you were not on the golf course with the family, you were in big trouble.
I started getting pretty competitive with golf at an early age. I would always share my experiences with my grandparents. So, after every tournament, I'd call them up and let them know how I did as if I was a professional player. Half of my tournaments were actually located pretty close to my grandmother's house so right after the tournament we'd go celebrate and hang out on the porch outside and drink some sweet tea or something.
My grandma had a golf course near her and I always asked her why she never played and she always said that she's too intimidated. She didn't feel like she belongs there. I kept telling her, "No, no, no, you should come with me." She didn't want to; she thought she'd embarrass herself. So, I actually started teaching her in her backyard when I was seven. She got super into it and that was kind of a turning moment for me where I came home and I'm like, "Yeah, I taught grandma how to play golf today. I think that's what I want to do." And at that age, I didn't think that was actually a job. I was fortunate to grow up in a country club and go through junior golf programs and everything. But for some reason, I just wasn't thinking that's a job I could do. So I told my parents that and I also wanted to be a school teacher at the time. I was already debating what my future was going to hold at seven years old.
I was kind of weird in the sense of being a competitive golfer, but also wanting knowing what my career path was going to be. I was obviously taking consistent lessons with instructors to better my game but at the same time, during those lessons, I was super critical in thinking how I didn't like how they explained this or I really like that idea. So even at a young age, I was starting to build up my library of teaching drills, thoughts, ideas, you know, even just how you can say one thing that can mean a different thing to somebody else or you can be saying the same thing in a million different ways. In high school, I started teaching a little bit and helping around junior clinics and getting more exposure to that and I started to enjoy it even more.
I played and had a pretty successful high school season winning state and having a great team. The year that I became a freshman, for some reason that was the year everybody wanted to go out for golf. It was an awesome thing. We had over 30 girls on our golf team. That also kind of helped me in the sense of feeling like, "Hey, I'm not the only girl out here that likes golf" because growing up in my junior golf golf career, there were a few other girls there, but they were mainly only there because their parents needed somewhere to drop them off during the day. I was competing with the boys and I was playing tournaments with the boys and so finally when I came to high school, and here are 30 girls surrounding me who are choosing to be here right now, I was like,"This is cool."
So, all four years were really successful. I had several opportunities to go play in college, but I was kind of tossing and turning between playing college or going through the PGM Program. So, I went to Florida Gulf Coast University.
I had checked out several different PGM schools and I felt the best at Florida Gulf Coast for the reason that the PGA director there was a female and her lead helper, Marty Hall, who's our internship coordinator, she's just the best person ever. So, I was amazed that there are two females in this dominant role there. I knew that they were going to have my back through all of this no matter what.
Payton also found that FGCU had several women in the PGM program, which demonstrated to her that they are doing something great to attract women to this career path. Payton graduated in 2017 and was working as a full time teacher at the time.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There's probably a few things but I would say the biggest thing that I strive to do every day is to help make more people fall in love or fall more in love with the game that I love the most, because golf has become my life. One of my biggest thrills that I find is working with beginners. I have started a little golf talk for newbies at our country club, where I meet once a month and I throw out a flyer all over the club and anybody new to golf or anyone who has questions shows up.
But the best thing is they come together as a group; they feel like they're all in the same boat. Then they all start taking lessons together, and then they all become really great friends. Since I've been at the country club at Darien, I make a note at the beginning of the year who all these beginners are. And then the next year I go in, and I revisit that list and I'm like, "Holy cow, this person now plays in ladies nine holes, and this person I see every week now," and there's not been one lady on that list who I don't see again. So, it's exciting to see that and know that I have some type of effect on helping get them out here and make them comfortable and enjoy the course just as much as everybody else should.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry?
The challenges are endless. I've been at many facilities in the past who may not have completely seen my value or my worth or what I could bring to the table. They may make the interview seem like it's all cut out to be this and that and then you get there and you turn out to only fold sweaters. Or you get, I think Meghan even said it, and I related to it so much, where people come in and they go, "Can I speak to one of the pros?" I think we've all had that. But I know every golf course I go play at or every golf course I work at is different. With the course I'm at right now, I fell into a great situation and my club fully supports me. I always do recognize when I go to a new facility, and I'm just playing golf there for fun or for a tournament, how many heads turn when they see a female playing or even a female who looks like maybe she can actually play?
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
100,000 times a million [the industry] benefits from having any woman in this position or in the golf industry. I feel like there's always these articles that I read where they say that golf is dying or slowing down. The people who really highlighted the boom of golf are getting older, so how can we tap into increasing the amount of golfers in the world? And I know that they have mentioned that women are the fastest growing part in the industry for new golfers or continuing golfers.
The PGA needs to have dominant females in this industry to help boost that number because as good as a man can be, there's times where they don't reach to the women in a way that we might be able to, whether that be making them feel a little bit more comfortable because they have somebody of their same gender to take them under their wing, whether that be just girl talk, or even that we understand outfit advice. And then also a huge part is in the golf swing. We understand I feel like a little bit more about the female body and how it moves and operates. Surely a man can go and do research and maybe also shadow a female instructor to better understand, but there's going to be times where we have a little bit more of an advantage talking to them.
How do you think we can get more women in the industry?
I would say that honestly having Suzy Whaley be our first female president was a huge first step. Unfortunately though, I don't feel like that PGA section really reaches 100% to the women looking into making this their job. When I was young and when I was even looking into this, I had no idea what a PGA president was and I had no idea who it even was. It didn't really matter to me as much as it should have. But, I think she's so amazing and I'm so happy with everything she's doing.
Just to expand on that, I think all of us female professionals in industry need to put that leadership role cap on and try and reach out to that market or reach those ladies who are thinking about joining the industry, whether they be later in life or early in life as a junior. There are a few steps of how I think that might be done. I think the each section in the PGA needs to have some female representative on board there that will help to kind of rally the troops. They can coordinate and get together all the other female pros in the area to create a group and have socials, for example. I also think that the sections would benefit by having their own social media page [for women]. But building off of that, I think that we all also need to put the leadership cap on by saying, "Hey, I'm going to put myself out there." Personally, I have not done the best job with social media and keeping up with that. And right now I have a lot more time, so that's my huge driving force of, "Hey, I need to get front and center in front of anybody I can influence to get people to start seeing that females are in the industry."
What are your future aspirations in the industry?
Right now, I like what I'm doing. I really like teaching and bringing more juniors, more women, more beginners to the game of golf. I also work with a lot of really talented players and I have also in the past at different teaching academies. I like running the tournaments, but do I see running tournaments my entire life? I'm not sure. I think I would much rather enjoy the teaching aspect. The tournaments have given me a great reach to the members and have helped me boost the rounds and get more enjoyability out on the golf course with more women participating, more beginners participating, more men participating. But I want to find some way that I can reach globally other women who are trying to get into the golf industry or other women who may have questions and provide support or provide guidance to them. I don't know what that may be or how it may be. I'm still kind of looking into how I can get there and what I can do.
What advice do you have for women beginning their careers in the industry?
My dad would always tell me you just have to walk in there and stand tall, act like you are meant to be there, and act like you know what you're doing, because you are supposed to be there. You have every right to be there. Also, my big thing was to not be afraid or intimidated to just randomly reach out to any female that you may see or hear of in the golf industry, because I will say 10 out of 10 times that female will do anything to pick up that phone to text you or meet you in person. We're here to support any female.
Thank you so much to Payton for sharing your story! You can follow Payton on Instagram, @paytonpga, and also follow her page that highlights PGA pros, @golfprosofinsta. Remember to follow @golf.hers and subscribe below!