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SHSU Officials Elated Over PGA/PGM Accreditation

By Tom Waddill/News Editor
The Huntsville Item

James Gaertner

They waited two years for the word that came late Monday morning. James Gaertner and Dean Lewis didn't do cartwheels all over the Sam Houston State campus Monday afternoon, but they were, without a doubt, very happy men.

On Monday, Sam Houston State became the only school in Texas and just the 17th in the United States to land the PGA of America's professional golf management program. The Professional Golfers' Association's board of directors officially accredited the Huntsville university for its professional golf management program.

That was exactly what Gaertner, SHSU's president, and Lewis, dean of the college of business administration, wanted to hear. Now, Sam Houston State can start accepting applicants for the program, which will begin this fall.

"This really is exciting," Gaertner said Monday afternoon. "I think this program fits real well with our university. This is an applied program, which is not highly theoretical. It's consistent with other programs that have been very successful here - criminal justice, education, business."

There were lots of nervous moments, Gaertner admits, during the months and weeks leading up to Monday's announcement. Last month, a team from the PGA of America visited Huntsville and toured the Raven Nest Golf Club to see what the city and university had to offer potential students of the PGM program.

Fortunately for the folks in Huntsville, the people from the PGA's home office in Florida were impressed enough to put their approval stamp on the accreditation request from SHSU.

Dean Lewis

"It's been a lot of work. It really has," Gaertner said. "People like Dean Lewis have just stayed after it. The PGA has very high standards. It's evident by the fact that there are only 16 other programs in the country. Many universities would like to have those.

"We started this probably about two years ago, and we stayed with it until we got it done."

People with the city of Huntsville say they are thrilled with Monday's news. It's way too early, they say, to start talking about the city handing over Raven Nest's reins to the university, but everyone involved should benefit from the new program.

"This is something that obviously will help the golf course," Huntsville city manager Kevin Evans said. "This speaks well of the course and it speaks very well for the university. As far as the golf world, this is putting Huntsville on the map. This means Raven Nest will be known worldwide."

City Councilman Mac Woodward agrees.

"This is a real tribute to the university to qualify for this program. It's not easy to qualify for this," he said. "Hopefully, this will make the future of the golf course a lot brighter."

SHSU is prepared to kick off the program in a few short months. All the university needs now are some students for a program that will likely sell itself to those interested in a career in the growing golf industry.

"We have the course work all in place, we have a director in place who is familiar with the program, we have a golf course and we have a list of students who have an interest in the program," Gaertner said.

Bob Mishler moved his family from Odessa to Huntsville recently because he heard Sam Houston State was trying to start a PGM program. Mishler wants one day to own and run his own golf course, and he came here to acquire the wherewithal to do it.

"You need to know the grasses, some design, what a superintendent does and you have to give lessons," he said. "I also need to know the restaurant and pro shop sides of the business and I need an accounting background. You have to have credentials for people to back you."

The PGA's professional golf management program is a five-year college curriculum for aspiring PGA professionals. While graduates will work in a number of golf industry jobs, there is an admission requirement of a verifiable 12 handicap or better.

Richard Ballinger

Richard Ballinger, hired recently by SHSU to direct the program, is himself a graduate of a PGM program. Ballinger graduated in 1994 from the Ferris State University program, which was the first such program in the U.S., established in 1975 in Michigan.

"Not everyone can play on the PGA or LPGA tours," Ballinger said, "but this is a wonderful opportunity for those who love the game to prepare for a rich and rewarding career in this growing industry."

Ballinger said SHSU's program will have two unique features. First, the university's college of business is among a limited number accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Also, students will have access to the highly acclaimed Raven Nest course, which opened two years ago, in a cooperative effort by the city of Huntsville and SHSU.

"The folks at the city of Huntsville have been very gracious and will give our PGM students extensive access to Raven Nest," Ballinger said. "Enough access to allow them to work on their games, play golf, use the practice facilities. We're very excited to have Raven Nest as our home golf course for the PGA program."

In addition to traditional university classes, PGM students will study such topics as retail merchandising and inventory management, turfgrass management, food and beverage management, business planning and operations and business communications. The program also requires students to pass a playing ability test and complete a 16-month internship before graduating as Class A members of the PGA of America.

Ballinger says students have to be serious and dedicated to get through the extensive program.

"It's a very, very rigorous program," Ballinger said. "I like to say it's an exercise in self discipline and time management. Most of the 13,500 students going to school here are walking around just trying to get their college education, which is tough enough to do. But we're going to throw a whole nother set of requirements on top of that, which are the PGA membership requirements. You've got to pass a playing ability test, complete your 16-month internship work and then complete the entire PGA educational training.

"So this requires a very focused individual."

Jobs available for graduates include head golf professional, director of golf, teaching professional, assistant golf professional, college golf coach, general club management, golf retail, golf course development, golf course maintenance, golf industry sales representative, rules official and golf equipment fitting, repair and testing specialist.

The closest PGA/PGM programs before Monday were at Mississippi State and New Mexico State. Gaertner said the program can have as many as 250, maybe even 300, students. Ballinger started his search for an assistant Monday, and according to the SHSU president, the staff will grow along with the number of students.

"I think we're going to have a great program here," Gaertner said. "I told the people at the PGA our goal is to have the best one in the United States. We have everything going for us now."

- END -

Tom Waddill can be reached at 936.295.5407 ext. 3020 or by e-mail at

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
March 22, 2005
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