By Noah Hedberg
“Noah, take mower two – you’re mowing greens this morning.” This is what I heard when I walked into what was roughly my tenth shift with Agronomy. As a Professional Golf Management (PGM) student at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), I never thought that I would have heard these words at one of my internship sites.
Starting out my college career at FGCU, I was always planning on being in the golf industry. I thought that I was going to start out as an intern and work my way up to an Assistant Professional, and then Head Professional. Never did I think I was going to be cutting greens at a golf club that is home to some of the most influential people in the world. Who would have thought that a PGM student would be working on a boat for a day…or learning about the HVAC system…building a new putting green…analyzing budgets…learning how to sell memberships…maybe even shadowing a PGA and LPGA Tour coach?
Some of these things might not seem like a big deal, but let’s take a look back to a couple of months ago. I was sitting in my chair at FGCU and starting to wonder where I was going to go for my next golf internship. After completing two seasons at TPC River Highlands in my home state of Connecticut, and one at Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Georgia, I was thinking to myself “how can my next internship be different?” I wanted to go to a facility that would fit what I want to do in my career – then the perfect opportunity arose. I learned about a potential new General Manager’s internship at Liberty National Golf Club, in Jersey City, New Jersey. I immediately knew that this was where I wanted to go. This is what I want to do with my career.
My boss, Lee Smith, gave me an opportunity that no one else had offered in my career. Together, we planned what a successful GM internship would look like. Through phone calls, emails, and texts, we worked on what would turn out to be one of the best internships that would be available to any PGM student.
Fast forward to this moment. I am writing this article for Golf Range Magazine, another opportunity I didn’t expect, now much more diversified in the field of General Management. Yes, it was an internship that provided an extensive overview of what a General Manager does. This opportunity was certainly not an internship that rendered me sitting behind a counter of a golf shop all day. I wasn’t scrubbing clubs or cleaning carts for the entirety of my time in Jersey City. I was in fact, mowing greens, learning the HVAC system, building a new putting green, analyzing budgets, and shadowing a PGA Tour coach. But this was just the tip of the iceberg.
I worked with numerous different departments at Liberty National, under several different managers and industry leaders – Accounting, Membership, Golf Operations, Agronomy, Building Maintenance, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage, Instruction, and the General Manager. Spending one to two weeks with each department opened my eyes to what makes a successful operation. I learned more in one summer than I ever thought I would, and I owe that to the forward-thinking of my boss, Lee Smith. He came up with what he believed was an important curriculum for me to learn. Together, we planned what would make a successful summer. He gave me the outline and guidance, and the journey was mine to take.
I urge all PGA Professionals with the ability to offer a unique and unconventional internship to do so. Students need to learn these things. We need to curate better golf professionals if we want to continue progressing the industry and growing the game. We can do this by creating new, diversified internship experiences.
Let’s get away from sticking an intern behind the counter checking people in. Yes, I know that it is an important skill to learn, but perhaps not for an entire summer. Please start giving students the ability to analyze golf operations budgets. Let them spend a day with building maintenance and a couple of days with Agronomy. Let’s start progressing our internships in the right direction with this diverse agenda. Let’s expand the amount of content students learn at their internships.
I will be forever grateful for this internship. Thank you to my boss and mentor, Lee Smith, for being forward-thinking. Thank you for putting together a world-class internship at a world-class facility.
Noah Hedberg is a PGA Professional Golf Management Student at Florida Gulf Coast University, in Fort Myers, Florida. He is the Managing Director Intern at Liberty National Golf Club, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Hedberg begins his senior year in the fall of 2020 and is slated to graduate next spring. Contact Noah at Njhedberg5690@eagle.fgcu.edu.