Originally from Cumberland, Maryland, Jessica Barts now works in North Carolina. She is a PGA Class A member, certified in Teaching and Coaching, an LPGA A2, and also TPI certified with certifications in personal training and nutrition. Although she recognizes the challenges that she and many women face in the industry, she loves her job and growing the game, with the goal to one day be a Director of Instruction.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I work at a private golf course called Cowan's Ford Golf Club in Stanley, North Carolina and I've been there for six years. We have three assistants and a Head Professional. I was promoted to First Assistant after four years.
I also worked at a little public course in North Carolina called Oak Hills for about three years after I graduated college. I worked in the shop, cleaned carts, bagged balls, or whatever needed to be done. I took my current job in 2013 after passing the PAT.
When did you first get introduced to golf?
About seven years old, I would say. I learned the game from my great uncle and my dad. When I first started, I didn't take it too seriously. I probably didn't really start tournaments until probably 13. And then I started doing the Titleist Tour, which was kind of like a junior developmental kind of tour. Then I got more serious with high school where I played all four years on the boys team. I decided I wanted to try to play in college and I played Division I golf at Radford University in Virginia and I graduated in 2010.
When did you know you wanted to work in the golf industry?
Honestly, I took probably about a year break after I finished my last year of eligibility in college because I was just so burned out. And then I was kind of getting down to crunch time, you know, I needed to find a job and I didn't know what I wanted to do.
An opportunity happened to come up at this little public place and I was like, "I'll just do it until I find something else." Well, then I started to teach a little bit and realized, "Hey, I kind of would like to do this." I realized I wanted to teach after being a counselor at the Golfari camp at Pine Needles in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I was lucky enough to meet Peggy Kirk Bell and learn from instructors such as Donna Andrews. I worked there and I really liked it. After that, I thought that this is something that I wanted to do so that's when I started pursuing it.
I went through the PGA. That was sort of the reason why I left the public course because at the time, you had to have a PGA member on staff to be able to go through the program, so I couldn't because we didn't. So I went through the PGA program and I'm actually an A2 in the LPGA program also.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
You know, we go out and we play and it just comes kind of naturally to us, so to see somebody that's just a beginner and how happy it makes them to actually just get the ball in the air or learn something new. Just being able to teach the game to everybody is so rewarding.
I love my job. I love being able to go to work and talk to people all day and play golf with members. I love growing the game. Besides helping others learn the game, I value having the time spent with my family on the golf course. It’s something I hope we’ll share for years to come.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry?
Being a female in the industry is not easy. I'm the only female out of the assistants and the Head Professional at my place, which is pretty common everywhere else. And when I went through the PGA program, I was maybe one of four that went through the program. So, just trying to feel like I'm an equal, you know?
I read on Sara's blog about how she was saying that people come into the golf shop and they'll be like, "Can I talk to the pro?" And you have to say, "I am the pro." There are certain people that are only ever going to ask my male coworkers questions. They're never going to ask me, even though I might feel like I'm more capable to answer their questions.
Despite the struggles of being a female in the business I am really lucky to have a supportive Head Professional that promotes women's golf. I love playing with a group of guys for the first time and seeing their reaction when I tee my ball up on their box and then out drive them.
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
I think it grows the game for women. That's been the large part of my lesson business anyway; they feel more comfortable to reach out to me. And I think being a role model for younger kids, because I know for me growing up, I didn't have any females to look up to. I mean, I played golf with my great uncle and my dad, who got me into the game and you know, playing with their buddies, but I never had any other girls to play with even in high school.
How do you think we can get more women working in the golf industry?
I think honestly, just being a voice and getting out there that, "Hey, there are more of us." We can get into this business and thrive and there are huge benefits for us to be at a facility just because of the junior's and women's programs. There's a huge market for us.
I think it would be great to try to get together more often within your own chapters and your own sections to meet other professionals. We need to stick together, support each other, and use each other for help.
What are your future aspirations in the golf industry?
I would like to be a Director of Instruction at some point, whether it's at a facility or I could start my own facility. That's kind of the end goal.
If you had any words of inspiration or advice for young women beginning their careers in the golf industry or considering it, what would it be?
I know I sometimes feel like I have to work twice as hard some days as my male coworkers do, but you just have to have confidence and know you can do it. Also, don’t take things too seriously. Learn to have thick skin and believe in yourself. I think that’s how I’ve gained respect. The guys dish it and I dish it right back.
"Of all the hazards, fear is the worst” -Sam Snead
The above quote is one of Jessica's favorites (and mine as well). I would like to thank Jessica for sharing her story and supporting Golfhers. You can follow her, @jessbgolf, and remember to follow @golf.hers on Instagram too. Did you notice the new "Let's Get More Women in the Industry" tab on this website? Check it out for a few ideas about how we can grow the industry! It all starts right here: connecting with each other, supporting each other, and raising awareness!