He didn’t know it at the time but as Justin Speirani was taking his first steps towards becoming a PGA Professional he was laying the foundation for a move into management.
A role at Cobram Barooga Golf Club that evolved over the course of 17 years opened Speirani’s eyes to a career progression that now sees him serving as the General Manager at Leongatha Golf Club two hours south-east of Melbourne.
But the aptitude and knowledge base came much earlier.
After learning his golf at Mount Martha Public Golf Course on the Mornington Peninsula, Speirani was intelligent enough to recognise that players he couldn’t beat in the amateur ranks would make a professional playing career a challenge.
He set his sights on becoming a coach and a club-based PGA Professional, Speirani beginning his PGA training under Phil Boulton at Rosebud Public Course and completing it under Steve Grange at Moorabbin.
They would prove to be influential on exposing Speirani to the business acumen necessary to run a golf facility but most importantly gave him the instinct to listen and absorb the information made available to him.
“You get better at it through coaching,” said Speirani, who has been able to access financial and HR experts within the Leongatha membership to benefit the club’s operations.
“If you learned to listen to what your pupils wanted, that’s where you can break it down into two or three really pertinent points.
“I’ve been pretty good at breaking down the critical points and working out what I can learn from any situation.
“That makes sense to me. It’s about being able to figure out what makes sense.”
Speirani’s path to Leongatha included stints at Seabrook in Tasmania, Brighton Golf Course and Mount Martha before landing the position of Director of Golf at Cobram Barooga.
The club’s expansion to offer leisure activities beyond the golf course and the on-site accommodation provided Speirani with the opportunity to extend his area of influence and develop his management skills.
“The last couple of years they built the motel so I had the Sporties Health and Fitness Centre and the Bridges Villas that I looked after as well as the golf,” Speirani explains.
“The extra role at Cobram really grew organically, to be honest with you, 25 years of working in golf operations.
“It was just at a normal review that I said to the CEO, ‘I can do my job really, really well with my eyes shut.’ And that sort of tweaked his ear. He said, ‘Well, I think I should challenge you a little bit.’
“That’s how the jump towards the management came.”
With a well-rounded skill set and a willingness to listen and learn, Speirani felt equipped to step up into a General Manager’s role at Leongatha and use all of his knowledge of golf operations to their full effect.
He has become a sounding board for young PGA Professional Tyler Marotti and has developed a connection with the membership that other clubs may lack in senior management positions.
“One of the things that I heard for 25 years in golf operations from the membership was that they didn’t know who the manager was,” says Speirani.
“I try to get out and speak to the members. There is a shotgun start here every Thursday so every Thursday when they come in I get out of the office and walk around the room and talk to them.
“It lets them know where I am and that the door’s always open.
“A big part of that is due to my grounding as a PGA Professional and the positive influence of Phil and Steve as I started out.”
If you would like to pursue a career in the golf industry visit pga.org.au/education where you will find information on the Membership Pathway Program, PGA Centre for Learning and Performance and PGA International Golf Institute.