CCU PGM program and Hackler Golf Course prepare students for big-time careers on and off the green
by Josh Kisner
Coastal Carolina University is home to the Hackler Golf Course just steps away from the heart of main campus. The golf course does more than provide 18 holes for tournaments; it prepares students enrolled in the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Golf Management Program to pursue their dream careers.
CCU’s Professional Golf Management (PGM) program is one of 18 programs in the U.S. that is accredited by the PGA. This means CCU’s program is at the top of the list for any student who is seeking a degree in professional golf management. Students participating in this program are enrolled in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration and have the freedom to choose from many different areas of study such as accounting; economics; finance; management; marketing; and hospitality, resort and tourism management.
“We are probably the largest of the 18 programs accredited by the PGA,” said Will Mann, director of PGA Golf Management program. “We have the most diversified major opportunities out of those programs.”
The PGM program is competitive; there are two application processes required before admission. First, prospective students must apply to CCU through the normal Coastal Carolina freshman or transfer student application. If accepted into CCU, students apply to the PGA Golf Management program through an independent application in their office. Every student accepted into the program needs to have a verified golf handicap of 12 or less. Mann says there are around 240 students currently in the PGM program, which receives 85 to 90 applications per academic year. Out of those students, typically 55 to 65 freshmen are accepted. Some specific scholarships are available to qualifying freshman and transfer applicants.
The business degree typically takes around four and a half years to complete because of the required 16 months of paid internship work. According to Mann, the internship work is crucial because it prepares students for a successful career in the golf industry by combining classroom work with hands-on, professional golf-training experience. In order to receive PGA membership, students must also pass the PGA’s Playing Ability Test (PAT) and complete all of the PGA’s educational courses.
“We have more internship opportunities than we can fill right now,” said Mann. “That is because there is such a high demand for our students.”
Students who graduate from the PGM program at CCU go into many different career fields in the PGA of America world. Kyaw Htet ’07 is the head professional of Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., and Mark Ingalls ’15 is the assistant golf professional at Chapel Hill Country Club in North Carolina. Ingalls has worked at Chapel Hill Country Club for more than three years. Mann says he started at Chapel Hill as a junior professional and managed to bring the student program to more than 150 students, earning the club an additional $300,000 in revenue. The club also has increased its membership to 545 members, thanks to the hard work of Ingalls.
Alumni also work in different businesses surrounding the golf community such as Zach Baron ’14 and Jeff Wibben ’13. Baron works for Golf TV as the director of product design in the New York City area. Golf TV is an international golf streaming service for the PGA tour, European tour, and the Ladies European tour. Wibben took his knowledge from the PGM program at CCU and started his own business. He is the founder and CEO of Golf Delivered Pro, a company that delivers mobile golf simulator experiences, putting greens, and PGA instructors to events around the country.
“We do not only help students when they are here,” said Mann. “We also work with them after they graduate with references for jobs and helping with their resumes and cover letters.”
The Hackler Golf Course is situated less than a mile from the middle of campus and brings a valuable benefit to the PGM program. Students can do classroom work in the E. Craig Wall College of Business and then take a short walk to Hackler for their hands-on work. Mann says Hackler is the Grand Strand’s only University-affiliated course owned by Coastal Carolina and was bought specifically for the PGM program. Hackler’s 18-hole, par-72 course is managed by CCU PGM graduate, Charles Johns IV ’14, director of operations of the Hackler Golf Course. The course boasts an all-grass driving range, practice bunker, 3,000-square-foot putting green, 3-hole short game area, and a fully stocked golf shop with officially licensed Chanticleer apparel.
“The Hackler Course is an amazing asset to our program,” said Nathan Kroll ’22, PGM marketing student. “It allows us to develop our game as well as learn about the careers in golf more thoroughly.”
The course is open to the public, but students in the PGM program have preferred tee times. The driving range is also closed to the general public Monday through Friday from 1-4 p.m., allowing PGM students time to practice. According to Mann, the public is welcome to play on the course during other times because it is a great way to market the program to the community. He says when community members play on the course, they interact with students from the PGM program and learn about their unique success.
Students in the PGM program not only use Hackler Golf Course to practice their skills, they also get tested on the course when completing their PAT to gain membership to the PGA. The PAT is a one day, 36-hole test with a target score of 159 or less. Most students take this test two to four times before they successfully pass, but there are typically four or five freshmen every year who have already passed. Students are required to take the PAT once a semester until they pass, and if they never successfully pass, they do not get the PGM specialization with their degree. Kroll says the most challenging part of the PGM program is this level testing.
“The Hackler course helps students prepare for a successful career in the golf industry by combining academic studies and professional golf-training experiences,” said Barbara Ritter, dean of the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration. “Students are able to gain first-hand experience in the shop, and practice on campus at the same facility where they can take their PAT.”
As director of PGA golf management, Mann brings a unique understanding and leadership for this program as he served as the president of the PGA when CCU received its PGA accreditation in 1999. Mann arrived on campus in 2009 when he started as the director of player development and succeeded Charles Thrash, becoming the director of the PGM program in 2014. Over the past decade, Mann and Thrash brought the PGM program to its current enrollment of around 240 students throughout six different degree fields. Mann has also worked closely with Jim Garren, CCU’s head men’s golf coach, to elevate the team to even more success. When Garren joined the CCU family in July 2017, there were only five players on the golf team. He approached Gil Feagin, assistant director of the PGM program, and they collaborated to recruit two more players from the program before the 2017-2018 school year started.
“Hats off to Jim Garren,” said Mann. “As soon as Jim came here, he reached out to us to recruit two students.”
Since the PGM program supports students learning the nature of the game, recruiting golfers from the program for the University’s golf team comes naturally. In Garren’s first year as the golf coach, the golf team recruited Morgan Deneen and Andrew Roy from the PGM program. In his second year, Garren recruited Zach Taylor, another student from the PGM program. The division I, NCAA golf team at CCU practices at the Hackler Golf Course and has access to use the driving range and course amenities. Garren and his players are grateful to have Hackler and the PGM program readily accessible on campus. Mann says it is beneficial to have students in both the program and on the golf team because it helps make the other students in the program better golfers and students of the game.
“I think we’ve grown that relationship to heights never reached before at CCU,” said Garren. “Both our team and their program are great assets for each other and we continue to work together to make CCU a destination school for both competitive golf and the golf industry.”
Learn more about the PGM program at coastal.edu/business/pga.