Golf’s front-line ambassadors wear many hats, explains Bob Denney, Historian Emeritus for the PGA of America
1. PGA Pros have to be good players
Aspiring PGA Professionals must pass a 36-hole Playing Ability Test (PAT), scoring within 15 shots of the course rating over 36 holes, usually played in one day. Fewer than 20 percent pass on the first try. Any player who has qualified for the PGA Tour through its Qualifying School is exempt from having to take the PAT.
2. The early pros in America all came from Scotland
The first American-born club professional was an African-American, John Shippen Jr. (1879–1968). At 16, he began caddying at Shinnecock Hills, where he later became an instructor, club repairman, and part of the maintenance crew. In 1896, Shippen entered the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and finished tied for 6th. In 2011, he was posthumously bestowed PGA membership.
3. No club pro has ever won the PGA Championship
Before 1968, when the PGA of America split with Tournament Players, leading to the formation of the PGA Tour, many touring pros—including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead—were employed or played out of a golf facility. The last full-time club pro to win the PGA Championship was Chandler Harper, at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950.
4. Pros make their money from the golf shop
Clubs have a variety of arrangements with their pros, who might own the shop, collect the cart rental, and earn lesson fees. But many pros aren’t associated with clubs at all, working instead as college coaches, full-time instructors, Rules Officials, sales representatives, course superintendents, course architects, and even in the media.
5. To become a PGA Professional, you simply have to say you are one
Besides passing the PAT, admission to the PGA of America as an associate requires a background check, passing online Qualifying Level Courses, and satisfying employment requirements. Associates then must complete successive levels of the PGA Professional Golf Management Program within eight years and meet all election requirements before being elected to PGA Membership.