McCollam's international exposure a lesson to all PGA Professionals - PGA of Australia

McCollam’s international exposure a lesson to all PGA Professionals

In a sense, Declan McCollam’s career working at golf facilities around the world was the result of a gap year gone wrong.

After completing his PGA Traineeship (now Membership Pathway Program) in Perth under Graham Johnson and spending a couple of years playing on tour in Asia and Australia, Declan decided to join a number of his countrymen and teach golf in Germany.

There was a growing enclave of Aussie PGA Professionals within Germany and Declan saw it as a way to see a new part of the world, experience a new culture and return home to Australia to resume his playing career.

“I really went with the idea of going for a year to see what it was like, save some money and go play again,” Declan says.

“I ended up staying 12 years in Germany.”

Thirty years on from that initial exploration, Declan was named the 2023 PGA International Member of the Year at the PGA of Australia Awards in Brisbane last November.

His current role as General Manager of the Prestige Golfshire Club in Bangalore in India prevented Declan from attending in person, his career now serving as a blueprint for just how widely PGA qualifications can take you.

Through his association with Troon Golf that is coming up on 24 years, Declan has worked in Portugal, Russia, Italy, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Dubai and Switzerland as well as a stint back on home soil managing Troon properties such as Brookwater, Golf Club Kennedy Bay, Pelican Waters, Peregian Springs and The Cut.

He is adamant that his experiences in different countries among different cultures have armed him with the skills to be able to work anywhere and urges other PGA Professionals to invest time working internationally.

“I would recommend to all young graduates to go overseas for at least a period of time and experience what it’s like overseas,” Declan says.

“Even if it’s for one year or two years because it’s great to see what’s happening somewhere else and how different it is to the Australian system.

“If you go to a private club in Singapore, for example, seeing first-hand how they operate at such a high level is an invaluable experience.

“Any young Professional that gets that experience and has the opportunity to work in that environment, comes back with such a better understanding of how to work in the service and hospitality industry and deliver to your members.

“It’s a big feather in their cap and, when they come back, they will be highly desirable to Tier 1 clubs around the country.”

Although Graham Johnson’s acronym for FIFO may not be fit for publication, Declan insists that the principle remains the same for those who wish to work worldwide.

“You have to have the ability to adapt,” Declan says.

“I first went to Dubai not long after September 11 so there was lot of cautiousness about being in that part of the world.

“My thought was that if I make the decision to go there, it’s their country, I have to live by their rules.

“If you’re going to go somewhere, you need to fit in and you need to assimilate and behave in a professional manner.

“I think this is why Australians do so well overseas. We have the ability to adapt to any culture or race of people whereas other people perhaps don’t have that ability.”

Thirty years in, Declan continues to supplement his in-workplace development with continuing education through the PGA ACE Program.

Wherever he is in the world, Declan believes that continued learning is critical to success.

“It’s important to me, and it should be important to all Members because knowledge is everything,” he says.

“You cannot stop learning. If you stop learning, it’s like applying the brake to everything. It then gets to the point where everyone’s passed you by so far that it’s hard to catch up.

“The guys that have been really successful have never stopped learning and knowing how to adapt and grow their business.

“That’s very important. And the PGA has now realised that and are giving us the tools to be very knowledgeable, very well-rounded and understanding of what’s happening outside of the golf industry.

“That can only benefit us within our own industry.”

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