After fourteen years with one of the UK’s biggest banks, Jonathan Wright has swapped his suit and briefcase for a set of waterproofs and golf clubs. The 33-year-old has left Lloyds TSB in north London to sign up for the world’s first honours degree in Applied Golf Management Studies, leading to PGA professional status, and is among the 26 talented students who have just begun the three-year course created by the PGA and University of Birmingham.
More than 1,000 inquiries about the degree were received with over 100 applicants from countries as far away as Japan, Australia, Thailand, Russia and the United States.
The average handicap of the 26 students is 3.2 but the university insisted that the academic demands should be pitched at an equally high level. The average A-level achievement of the successful applicants is a B and two Cs but James Bell rattled up four straight A’s. With a handicap of 3.3, the 18-year-old from Surrey, a member of Tandridge GC, seemingly has the potential to make his mark on the pro circuit, but – like Jonathan -hasn’t decided what he will do after graduation.
Zoe Humphris from Middleton Cheney near Banbury, however, who plays her golf at The Buckingham GC, has already mapped out her future. She took a gap year after completing her A-levels and improved her handicap down to 3. “I’ve been playing for ten years but haven’t really had the time to focus on it until the last twelve months. When I’ve got my degree, I want to coach golf in Ireland,” said Zoe.
The student who has come the furthest is Kiin Yang, a 24-year-old Korean who has a handicap of 4 and also excels at the cello. He hopes his future will lie on the pro circuit but was also attracted to the degree because it offered the chance to learn coaching skills.
The student who is closest to home is 21-year-old Adam Mason from Bromsgrove and a member of Kings Norton GC. He already has a business studies degree from the University of Surrey. Playing off a handicap of 1.9, Adam views a second degree in golf as a unique opportunity to combine his marketing and business knowledge with a golfing slant and relishes the opportunity to play professionally.
Other university-based elements of the degree include sports science, business management and materials science.
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones hopes the radical project will help ensure that talented players anxious to begin their career with an academic grounding will no longer be lost to the professional game. “The standard of European golf professionals is already impressively high,” he said, “but this degree will provide future professionals with an even greater range of qualifications. It will also give those determined to make the transition from amateur status to full-time professional a greater chance of success.”
Martin Toms, golf programme manager for the University of Birmingham said, “It is fantastic to welcome so many talented students. Their academic profiles and golfing handicaps are excellent and their commitment and enthusiasm to the course is exemplary. We are all looking forward to them achieving great things in the golfing world and helping to create the next generation of golfers.”
The Professional Golfers’ Association www.pga.info.org