An Update: Kevin McAleer & his Professional Development Bursary from Rainbird

Education and Change AS topics have been trending in the golf industry over the last few years.  Kevin McAleer discusses how the Rainbird bursary helped him embrace and leverage both. 

After a year in my current role as General Manager at Helensburgh Golf Club, I was relatively happy with my own performance and that of the club as a business, but I realised that I needed to do more with own professional development if I was to improve and if the club was to get the best of me as a manager.

I have always tried to embrace both in my career but the demands on the modern Club Manager mean we have to do so more than ever…

I have always been keen to extend my knowledge by attending seminars and over the previous year had attended courses on the Rules of Golf, Soil Biology, GDPR, Health & Safety and Employment Law, but it was clear to me that I needed something more detailed and demanding.

Back in 1997, I turned professional and embarked on the PGA training scheme which was the industry standard and indeed the only route into becoming a Club Professional. In late 2017 it struck me that; here I was, 20 years later, in exactly the role I wanted, but without any formal qualifications to back up my practical experience.

Around that time an email arrived from the GCMA inviting applications for a Professional Development Opportunity. Sponsored by irrigation experts, Rain Bird, it would enable the successful applicant to embark upon the ASQ Level 5 in Golf Club Management. At this stage I had heard of the course but didn’t know it in any detail. After some investigation on the website, I was encouraged by the fact the GCMA had partnered with the PGA and BIGGA to design an in-depth, industry specific qualification tailored to the modern club manager. I applied as soon as the process opened.

The challenging but enjoyable process involved an online application followed by a trip to Birmingham to present my ideas to Bob Williams, Alistair Higgs of Rain Bird and Ellie Parry of Forte Marketing. Luckily for me the presentation theme was “where golf will be in 10 years” and as the members of Helensburgh Golf Club would testify, this is something I like to talk about a lot. As with this blog, the words ‘education’ and ‘change’ featured fairly regularly in the presentation!

Hopefully my passion for what golf and golf clubs need to do to survive and thrive came across to the panel. I believe very strongly that Club Managers should be leading their committees towards positive, progressive and innovative decisions. It’s not always easy, but it’s what our sport needs and a well-informed Club Manager is in the best position to be able to have that influence.

After an anxious wait, I was delighted to receive a call to congratulate me on being the first recipient of the GCMA/Rain Bird Professional Development Bursary.

Things began to move fairly quickly from that call and I found myself at the Induction day at The Belfry in April.  Sitting in the same room as I had on my PGA induction day 20 years previously was a strange feeling, but as I met the mix of current Club Managers, Golf Pros and those from outside the industry all together, I knew I had made the correct decision.

Having completed the induction day and the first workshop I am absolutely convinced of the merits of the course.  I always enjoy being surprised by something during any kind of education and this was the case on the module covering innovation. Leigh, the tutor who delivered the module, isn’t from the golf industry and it was fascinating to hear a view of how golf clubs can innovate and grow from someone who is an expert on enterprise and development. Leigh’s speciality is small businesses and for most golf clubs, that is what we are.

I took a lot from the first workshop, including some of the suggestions made during the discussions with the others in attendance, and have no doubt that each workshop will also be a great platform for sharing ideas and experiences with my peers.

So, back to education and change as I haven’t said either of those for a few hundred words. It’s now 6 months on from the induction day and my education has contributed to positive change at Helensburgh. We recently approved plans for an innovative new mixed-gender individual medal competition and have begun shaping our fixture list for 2019 to allow for more access to the course for all of our members on Saturdays.

Education has also contributed to the next big change in my career. During a recent interview, the Captain, who was leading the panel said “tell us about this Bursary you won and the Diploma course you are undertaking”. I think they liked the sound of it as a few days later I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to move to Cawder Golf Club to become their General Manager.

Ironically, next up for me on the Diploma course is the module on Managing Change: I think I might quite enjoy that one and look forward to sharing my insights with you in my next blog.

Kevin McAleer.

By Marie J. Taylor

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