In our last edition of Cart Barn Chronicles we highlighted one of the top amateur golfers in the world Rachel Heck. This time we are going highlight Doug Wert, Regional League manager for the PGA Junior League. Doug has done just about everything in the golf industry and is a family friend of mine. He was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us.
Doug, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, first off, will you give us some background about yourself?
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, grew up in Houston, TX. My dad was a chemical engineer for Chevron who moved us to TX when I was about a year old. Went to high school in The Woodlands, TX, Marketing/PGM Degree from Mississippi State, MBA from University of Colorado. The golf business has taken me to many great locations around the country. I have had the opportunity to live and work in TX,FL, TN, PA, CO, AZ, and AL.
My wife, Wendy, and I met on a blind date arranged by a member at TPC at Southwind who happened to be the mother of Wendy’s best friend. This November 11th we will have been married 23 years. We have two sons. Hunter is a freshman at The University of Alabama studying Computer Engineering in the Electrical Engineering program. Jack is a Junior in High School at Oxford High School and has plans of attending Auburn University to study Veterinarian Medicine. Wendy has been an amazing partner in life and one that has been very supportive of me and my career. I am so thankful that God helped us find each other. I am extremely blessed!
Just over a year ago I accepted a position with the PGA of America as Regional League Manager for the PGA Junior League. I assist golf professionals, facilities, and staff in the Middle Atlantic PGA, Tri-State PGA, and Western New York PGA. This includes the states of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Western New York. We had over 3,500 players in my sections for the 2018 season.
You truly have been all over with golf, how did you get your start in golf?
My grandfather and dad introduced me to the game of golf. I started playing golf seriously during my sophomore year in high school. We had moved to The Woodlands, TX which had three golf courses and a very good team at McCullough High School. The summer after my freshman year I took clinics and played in junior tournaments offered by the Houston Golf Association (HGA). My mom was amazing helping me with this. She was the one that had to drive me all over the city of Houston to play in the events! I was very fortunate to have Dick Harmon, Mike Shannon, and Charlie Epps as my first instructors in the HGA Junior Golf Camps. The fall of my sophomore year I qualified for the high school team (PGA Tour Professional Jeff Maggert was a teammate) and began my journey towards playing and then working in the golf business.
The summer of my junior year I got a job working at The TPC at The Woodlands. I worked in outside operations handling the golf cars, driving range, and customer service. I worked at the TPC for one year and then transferred to The Woodlands Resort and Country Club. Following my first year of college at Milligan College I worked again at the TPC as a golf shop attendant. I really enjoyed the golf operation environment and providing service to those that played there. It was during this time that my head professional, Mel Callender, shared information about becoming a PGA Member, working in the golf business, and the Professional Golf Management program at Mississippi State University.
Talk about a great group of coaches and awesome place for a first job. What made you want to go to school for Professional Golf Management?
The idea of this was introduced to me by the above-mentioned PGA Member, Mel Callendar. He was the Head Professional at The TPC of The Woodlands during my job there in the summer of 1985. He shared the idea and I contacted Dr. Roland Jones, the first PGM Director at Mississippi State University. I flew to Nashville and my grandmother and I drove to Starkville to meet with Dr. Jones and hear more about the program. It was an amazing visit with Roland and I was immediately convinced the golf business was the career for me and Mississippi State was the place to start. It was the best way possible to begin my career in the golf business by studying business and golf management while gaining practical experience with the internship program. All of which was accredited by the PGA of America.
I was one of the first thirteen students in the program. I am very thankful to Dr. Jones, Dr. Luther Epting, and Matt Pinter for all they did to help me with the start of an amazing career in the golf profession. I am especially grateful to your Grandfather, Dr. Roland Jones. He was an excellent educator and friend. Upon my graduation he continued to support me in my career and aid anytime it was needed. I am very thankful for his involvement in my life and my career.
Those are very kind words about my grandfather. You have done just about everything from being the Head Pro at TPC Southwind, to Director of University of Colorado’s PGM program, to consulting. What have you taken from the various positions and applied it to our current position with the PGA Junior League?
I feel very blessed with everything I have been able to experience in my life and the golf profession. The relationships and friendships I have developed over the years has been so rewarding. I am very thankful that I started my career with the PGA Tour and the TPC operations. My time with them provided the background for my success in other operations around the country. I have learned a lot about leadership in each position. I truly believe in Richard Branson’s mindset of taking care of your team/employees so that they can take care of your customers. Now that I am a member of the PGA of America staff and a team member for the PGA Jr League I plan on using what I have learned to help my fellow golf professionals in the PGA and LPGA to be successful captains and leaders with the future of our game and profession, Junior Golf. I want to help all of them develop leadership and a passion for Junior Golf and PGA Jr League.
Tell us a little bit more about the PGA Junior League and how it is influencing junior golf across the country?
PGA Jr. League is the flagship youth pillar program of PGA REACH, with the goal of making the program accessible to all interested kids in the United States and around the world. As such, the program focuses on fun, recreation, good health and sportsmanship. PGA Jr. League is recreational and developmental in nature and works with PGA Sections and local youth organizations across the country to offer an alternative, social golf format. This unique approach highlights team play versus individual competition and serves as a feeder system to transition youth golfers to existing junior golf programs.
Boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels learn and play together in a supportive, two-person scramble format that encourages mentorship, builds confidence and promotes sportsmanship. In 2018 the we had just over 51,000 kids playing in the program. This was a 21.4% increase in participation from 2017. The fun, team, and developmental aspect of the program is making it enjoyable for kids to participate and grow in the game. In 2018, 81.5% of our players were either beginner or intermediate golfers. This shows that it is a great program for kids to learn the game of golf and grow into better players and really enjoy the process. The PGA of America strongly believes this is the best program to grow and introduce more kids to the game of golf.
Sounds like this is having an immediate impact on junior golf. Being a member of the PGA you have been able to travel to various events and meet numerous people, name a couple of your favorite events/people/experiences you have had being a part of the organization?
I must admit it is very hard to limit this to a couple of events. I have been blessed to have been involved with so many great events and meet so many amazing people in my career. There have been many that I consider to be wonderful mentors and friends that have helped me with my career success. When it comes to events the first that came to mind was the opportunity to be involved with the FedEx St. Jude Classic while serving at Head Professional at The TPC at Southwind. During the event my responsibilities included managing merchandising, the practice facility, the golf cars, and the locker room. I enjoyed the practice facility and locker room due to the fact it gave me the opportunity to get to know the players and their caddies. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get know the other employees of the PGA Tour including the rules officials. I have been able to enjoy some of those relationships throughout the years. Just this past month, while attending the Tour Championship, I ran into Slugger White who is now VP of Rules and Competitions for the PGA Tour. He was always one of the officials that was there for the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
The most recent experience for me is while serving in my current position with PGA Jr League. During the month of September, I had the opportunity to help conduct two of our regional qualifiers for the PGA Jr League National Championship in Pittsburgh and Charlotte. At both locations I had the pleasure of serving as the official starter for all the matches. It was so much fun getting to know the kids that were playing and talking more with them while getting ready to play. I feel that I have truly found a position that I love and marries all of my passions; Junior Golf, Growing the game, and assisting my fellow professionals with success in PGA Jr League and their career.
Is there anything in the world of golf (product, story, player, etc.) that is particularly enticing to you at the moment?
The most enticing to me at this moment is Tiger’s return to the game and playing better. I feel that this will help with the excitement and growth of the game. I think his win at the Tour Championship was incredible and really created more interest in the game. I am looking forward to the 2019 season and what he will bring to the game with his return. I’m also very excited about the upcoming match between Phil and Tiger!
What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced thus far as a golfer?
As I age it is losing distance off the tee and watching my sons hit it past me. Believe me they let me know about it too!
I think all fathers can sympathize with that. What has been the most rewarding moment for you?
The most rewarding moments for me have been seeing former employees grow and become successful in the golf industry and in life. Various people who have been members of my teams are now General Manager, Head Professionals, Golf Manufacturers Sales Representatives, and Directors of PGA Golf Management programs. Hearing from them about their success or calling for advice is very meaningful to me and I always look forward to those phone calls.
Tuesday practice round 4-some? Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Phil Mickelson
Favorite club in the bag? Driver – Callaway Epic
Best golf related purchase in the last year? Callaway Chrome Soft Golf Balls
Bucket list course? Augusta National, Pine Valley
If you want to find out more information about the PGA Junior League check out the link below.
I know I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks but I got married, went to Jamaica and now I’m back like Tiger Freaking Woods. So get ready for a steady stream of content coming your way.