PGA Professional

Ever wondered what it means to be a PGA Professional?

Your not alone!

• 3 year vocational degree (PGA & UofB)
• Continual Personal development program
• Golf coaching, junior development and sports science
• Equipment technology (club fitting & repairs)
• Business management and finance
• Rules of golf and tournament organisation
• Founded in 1901 inspired by Taylor, Braid and Vardon
• Protect interests of members and promote the game

“There is no doubt that the golfing set up is a very confusing world, the divide between amateur and professional and the ease in which one can class themselves a professional is where it all starts, it doesn’t help that the biggest golf tour calls itself the PGA tour! Being a member of your national PGA is the easiest way to know that you are in the company of someone who has been trained in the art and business of golf”
Andrew Knott

Being a PGA Professional and PGA Member
Here in Asia there seems to be a great deal of confusion, from locals and expats alike, about what being a PGA Professional or a PGA Member means. In my experience when I tell people I am a PGA Professional or PGA Member they associate that with playing currently or previously on the PGA Tour.

Who are the PGA?
PGA stands for Professional Golfers Association, All golfing nations have one and the initials are preceded by the National name i.e Thailand PGA or US PGA, however there is one exception Great Britain & Ireland, they simply go by the name PGA, they have that entitlement being the first PGA (formed 1901) and therefore the oldest. In recent years continental PGA’s have formed, such as PGA of Europe and the PGA of Asia. 2009 also saw the formation of the PGA world alliance, comprising of 9 leading PGA’s it was “formed to establish and guide teaching, playing and educational standards for the golf profession in developing golf territories and shared best practices in player development for adults and youth”

What is their role?
“The PGA is a members’ organisation for golf professionals. It has been at the heart of the game since 1901, when professionals of the day, led by the Great Triumvirate of JH Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid, formed an organisation to protect the professionals’ interests and promote the game of golf.”

Each association plays a slightly different role but in general they are there to provide initial and ongoing training (see below), promote the game of golf, run tournaments and assist members to obtain employment.

What defines a Professional Golfer?
The rules of golf define the “Rules of Amateur Status” rather than the rules of professionalism and they are far to in depth to go into detail here. However a golfer is deemed to be a Professional if he or she receives remuneration for teaching golf or other activities because of golf skill or reputation – teaching covers the physical aspects of playing golf, swinging a club, hitting a golf ball, it does not cover psychological aspects of the game or rules and etiquette.

You are also deemed to be Professional if you play in competition for prize money, as an amateur you may play in an event that has prize money providing that prior to the event you waive your right to accept prize money in that event. An amateur may not accept any prize or prize voucher (or combination of prizes) in excess of £500.00 (25,000 baht) in any one event.

In essence it is therefore quite easy for anyone who wants to call themselves a ‘Professional Golfer’ to be defined as one; just enter any professional event or qualifying event that is “Open” don’t waive your right to accept prize money and technically you are a professional golfer.

How to become a PGA Member (GB & I)
To become a Member of the PGA you have to be elected, to be elected you have to meet certain criteria. The first stage is to register as an Assistant Professional, entailing holding and maintaining a handicap of 4 or below for a minimum of 12 months – this has to be with an official registered body with details shown – have a minimum 4 GCSE’s or equivalent, 2 of which must be in English and Maths. Next you have to pass both a playing ability test, Approx +14 for 2 rounds on a set date (unless your handicap is scratch or better or if you have already turned professional and been playing tournament golf – produce a record of your scores) and an ‘Admissions Review programme’ – if you pass and are employed by a Member of the PGA who’s establishment has been certified as a training centre by the PGA you can begin the foundation degree.

The foundation degree is run by the PGA in conjunction with the University of Birmingham and is a 3 year vocational foundation degree course. You must work a minimum of 30 hours per week under the supervision of a PGA Member at a certified establishment (at all times). Once a year you are required to attend an intensive one week residential course at the PGA headquarters. The degree has 5 main modules of which all need to be finished to get your degree from the U of B. The modules are: Golf Coaching; Equipment Technology; Sports Science; Business Management; Rules & Tournament Organisation; Career & Personal Development. All modules are assessed by written assignments and end of year exams (both written & practical)

Other requirements are: Level 1 & 2 government coaching certificates; 30 minute assessed golf lesson; Good Practice and Child Protection workshop; Criminal Records Bureau check; First Aid Qualifications; continual playing records – complete a minimum of 7 rounds in recognised tournaments in each of the 3 years (total 21 rounds).

Finally a proposer and seconder is needed. They must be current Members and have known you personally for 5 years or more, your application then goes before the regional board and you are elected to Class A Member status.

As a Member you are required to keep your knowledge up to date and as such to retain your Membership and status you need to undertake recognised courses for Continual Personal Development, each course is awarded ‘CPD’ points and you need to keep a rolling total of these over a 3 year period. You can advance through the Membership status’s: Class A; Class AA; Advanced Professional; Fellow Professional; Advanced Fellow Professional; Master Professional.

Not to be confused with PGA Tour!
Being a member of your national PGA is not to be confused with being a member of the PGA Tour. The latter is purely about playing rights, qualification is based simply on your ability to play golf. The PGA Tour is just the name of the tour in America and is the same as the European Tour, Asian Tour and the other smaller tours around the world. Qualification to these tours can be gained through several avenues, the most common is to play in the qualifying school events at the beginning of the season, they usually consist of 4-8 rounds of golf with as many as 1,000 entrants playing for 40 tour cards. If you have your tour card then you can retain it for the following year by finishing in the top 120 on the money list, you can also get a 2 year exemption for winning events. Beneath each tour there are feeder tours of which some gain accesses to the main tour for the following year for finishing in the top 5 or 10 in the order of merit. Finally you can play without being a member on sponsors invites.

Thailand PGA
Some of the confusion comes about due to the nature of the Thailand PGA qualifying criteria. In Thailand anyone can sign up for the playing ability test which has 2 levels – Teaching Professional and Touring Professional, when you sign up for the test you can pay to take either or both. The Teaching Professional test is over 2 days with the playing ability test over 4 days. To pass the teaching ability test you must score no more than +20 for the 2 days, For Touring Professional it is no more than +12 for 4 days. You can take the test as many times as you like, they usually run 4 per year.

Once you have passed the test you must attend a seminar (4 days for Teaching Professional, 2 days for Touring Professional) on golf teaching and keep a log of your teaching experience, once you have finished 144 hours you can apply for Membership.

NB. Details were correct at the time of writing (November 2010) criteria and qualification details may change, I aim to keep these up to date but they should be taken as a general guideline not the full details.

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