So You Want to be a Golf Pro? It’s Not What you Think

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Karen Graham

Baxter Creek’s Kevin Gunter’s interest in golf began at a young, but not at age three like some professionals. His skills also paid off early, as he was proficient enough to earn a full golf scholarship in Tennessee, where he earned a BA. Returning home, he began his apprenticeship to qualify for the CPGA professional designation at Dalewood just outside of Cobourg, where he worked for 13 years. It was difficult at times, as the work was seasonal and Gunter had to find winter work to support a growing family, taking factory jobs during the winter. He has been the Head Pro at Baxter Creek for 8 years now, and that seasonal pressure is gone. To provide stability for key positions, owners retain some staff year round, which reduces anxiety on both sides of the employment equation.

Baxter Creek’s Kevin Gunter is relaxed at the end of another successful season. Photo: Karen Graham.

Baxter Creek’s Kevin Gunter is relaxed at the end of another successful season. Photo: Karen Graham.

Dalewood is small, a private club, and the environment is a very different one from Baxter Creek as a result. In a private club, members usually have regularly scheduled tee times each week, so Ralph and Ted might golf every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 am. Weather is not a significant factor in the number of golfers on the course, as members are paying anyway, so their objective is usually to maximize their golf opportunities to make the annual dues worthwhile. With golfers who play the course with this kind of frequency, there is a predictability in the length of their game. Chances are, Ralph has hit it into the trees on the 10th hole before, so he can usually locate his errant ball quite quickly. Members also know and respect the rules and etiquette of the game, so the play moves along at a standard clip.

It’s very different at public course like Baxter Creek. Every day is a unique experience. The number of golfers during the day is highly dependent not only on the actual weather, but on the forecast issued the previous day. With no commitment to the course, golfers have many options to consider even after the decision to golf has been made. Gunter likens the work experience in a public course to auditioning every single day at work: it is critical to provide an enjoyable experience in order to build repeat business. The good news is, customers at a public course are usually very happy to be there- it is a special event, a day off in the sunshine (hopefully). The downside is the golfers’ proficiency is very mixed, making the length of time to play a round more erratic. This means that the tee-times must allow for some slack and there is occasionally more work for the warden to ensure rules are followed.

The job of the Golf Pro at a course like Baxter Creek is quite broad. Sure, there is a golf proficiency requirement, but the job is more about people skills than technical skills. At Baxter Creek, the few times Gunter is actually playing a round, it would not be for recreation, but would take place in the company of guests to promote the course. He also provides golf lessons, organizes tournaments and is responsible for buying for the pro shop and club marketing efforts.

The season for Baxter Creek runs from April 15 to November 15th, give or take a week. It is determined by the weather forecast, as a snow mold application to protect the greens and fairways from winter damage requires a few good days to apply and settle into the grass.

After a busy season of providing a consistent golf experience to a steady stream of customers in a competitive market, Gunter is relieved to remove the flags from the greens at the end of the season. This feeling is very temporary, for as any true lover of the game, anticipation for the next season and the next new golf club technology quickly returns. To get a quick fix for your golf withdrawal for you or a loved one, Gunter is at the club weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm to supply you with gift certificates, golf wear and equipment for holiday giving. For more information about the club, visit www.baxtercreekgolf.com.

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