Brad Stephenson may not even be aware but his PGA DNA stretches back to a 13-year-old caddie at Royal Melbourne Golf Club some 60 years ago.
Such is the PGA of Australia’s Membership Pathway Program that lessons learned are lessons shared and the collective wealth of knowledge expands with each intake of new PGA Professionals in the making.
Formerly referred to as the PGA Trainee Program, the PGA Membership Pathway Program is taking applications for those wishing to be part of the 2021 intake until 2 October. It’s an opportunity to join an elite club and play a part in advancing the health of the game of golf in Australia.
Brad Stephenson was a 14-year-old playing in a corporate day when he first met Michael Faraone, the current Head Professional at Mornington Golf Club in Victoria.
Faraone himself had completed his PGA traineeship under Bruce Green and Richard Hatt at Royal Melbourne Golf Club and after striking up a rapport during the corporate day they played together began coaching Stephenson and his younger brother.
A junior at Berwick Montuna Golf Club, Stephenson played golf sparingly as he entered the workforce and travelled the world but at 24 years of age was convinced by Faraone that the path to becoming a PGA Professional was one he should take.
“The PGA Trainee Program was something I never dreamt was possible until Michael convinced me I had what it took to tackle it,” reveals Stephenson, who is now a Full PGA Member and the Assistant Golf Professional under Faraone at Mornington.
“I had spent time studying a Diploma of Fitness and working in the fitness industry where I learned that I loved helping people become better versions of themselves, whilst also having that competitive drive in myself.
“The traineeship required me to dig deep and really commit. My game was nowhere near the level required and my competitive experience was well and truly dated.
“I played the Portsea Amateur a few weeks before in entered the Trainee Program and had scores of 86 and DNF, thinking, How am I going to do this?
“Michael set me up by learning from experience. He was never worried about something going wrong or a repair going bad because there was always a way to fix it and learn from it.
“Before long I was preparing competitions, ordering stock, performing repairs and running Junior Golf programs. It didn’t take long to feel part of a really great club and where I still love to work to this day.”
The lessons passed on by Faraone have in themselves a rich history.
As a Trainee Golf Professional under Green who boasted more than 50 years of experience at Australia’s most acclaimed golf club, Faraone was shown first-hand how the PGA Professional can impact the club environment and elevate the experience of the membership.
“Bruce certainly taught me how to be the Professional of the Club,” Faraone recalls.
“His rapport with the members and his passion for the club and golf is what stuck with me.
“Richard added to that in the running of a pro shop business. He worked hard and smart and was the benchmark for all his staff. He was a fantastic motivator and gets the best from his staff.”
Like Stephenson, Melissa Taylor stayed with Luke Bower at Eastwood Golf Club after completing the Trainee Program, with her golf journey beginning as a junior at Chirnside Park Country Club where Bower was completing his traineeship under Ed Rechters.
“Luke and I have always had a special relationship,” Taylor says. “He has always been more like family to me and I’ve known him for more than half my life.
“I decided in 2014 that my life was missing something and that I wanted to come back to golf and make a career out of it. I started working for my parents on flexible hours so I could practice and play as much golf as possible.
“It was midway through 2015 that a casual position at Eastwood became available and with the intention to be a Trainee Professional and ultimately a PGA Club Professional, in 2016 I took the opportunity.
“Luke had become the Director of Golf at Eastwood approximately two years earlier and he encouraged me to apply for the job.
“It was new territory for us to go from friends to colleagues but I’ve been there ever since and loved every minute of it.
“Luke has always been supportive and a wealth of knowledge. It made me feel comfortable knowing I was working with people I could turn to for help and guidance.
“Luke was always checking in about assignments and always willing to help if I had any questions. He wanted me to learn and showed me as much as he could about anything that he could. Before I even began the Trainee Program I was learning from him.”
This transfer of professional expertise provides a depth to the PGA that bonds all who are Members yet Faraone adds that sometimes it is the teachers who do the learning.
“The relationship between a Head Professional and their Trainee is more than just an employer/employee relationship,” Faraone says.
“The more the Head Professional can develop an enjoyable and team environment the better the Pro Shop and everything involved with the club will operate.
“A Trainee will look up to the Head Professional as a mentor but the Head Professional these days can also learn from the Trainee as they bring what they have learned through the ever-improving PGA Membership Pathway Program.
“Over the years my Trainees have made suggestions I have taken on board that may improve Pro Shop operations from their PGA training and education.
“As a proud PGA Member you want to be part of developing the future generation of members within your business, making for a stronger PGA.”
Not only a stronger PGA, but stronger golf clubs according to Luke Bower.
“When you hire a PGA Trainee, you’re hiring someone who is training for their career,” Bower says.
“The job requires commitment as it is an industry that requires weekend work, public holidays, early starts and late finishes. So to have someone in the shop that sees the golf industry providing long-term employment and is learning to develop their skills specific for the industry, it is exceptionally beneficial to the golf club.”
If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing a career as a PGA Professional, apply now to join the PGA Membership Pathway Program.