In this edition of Cart Barn Chronicles, we have PGA Master Professional and Director, PGA Golf Management and Golf Operations at Mississippi State University, Jeff Adkerson. Jeff was a student of my grandfather and has been apart of the program as a faculty member for more than 15 years. He not only serves as the director of the 2nd oldest PGM program in the country but also has served as the President of the Gulf States Section of the PGA of America. I am very grateful for Jeff taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer some questions, shed some light on his program and show how you can be a part of professional golf without being on the PGA Tour.
Let’s start with some background about yourself, where are you from, where did you go to school, family, etc.?
I was born in Louisiana and moved around a lot growing up. I lived most of my childhood in various parts of Tennessee and claim Jackson, TN as home. While I had opportunities to play collegiate golf and soccer, I chose to attend Mississippi State University and enroll in the PGA Golf Management program to pursue a career in golf. Mississippi State was one of four universities in the country offering the program, and was the second oldest program accredited by the PGA of America. Following graduation, I worked at private clubs in Atlanta, GA and Nashville, TN prior to returning to Starkville, MS in 2003.
I am blessed to have married my high school sweetheart and we will celebrate 20 years of marriage this March. We have two daughters, Emily (13) and Lauren (8), and a British Lab, Duke.
When and what got you into the game of golf?
I first played golf at an early age, around 3 or 4 years old. However, other sports pulled me away from the game for a number of years. It was around age 12 that I started playing golf again with aspirations of playing professionally. Following a few AJGA events, I quickly realized professional golf was not in my future, at least not in the playing capacity. It was then that my uncle, a Mississippi State Alumnus, introduced me to Dr. Roland Jones and the PGA Golf Management program at Mississippi State. I realized through meeting with Dr. Jones that professional golf was still a possibility; not as a professional golfer but rather a PGA Golf Professional.
What brought you to MSU and what made you want to study in the PGM program?
As mentioned, I attended Mississippi State to enroll in the PGA Golf Management program. Once I realized I would not be able to make a living playing the game, I wanted to find another way to have a career in golf because of my love for the game. After a meeting with Dr. Jones, Director of PGA Golf Management at that time, I realized the opportunities that existed in golf as a PGA member. It was at that point I turned down golf and soccer scholarships to enroll at MS State and pursue a career in the golf industry. Looking back, it is without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made; a decision that has provided me with opportunities and experiences beyond my greatest wishes. My time at MS State and the PGA Golf Management program shaped me and my career!
You have been a part of this program in a faculty capacity for going on 16 years now, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the years?
Where do I start with this one! The golf industry has changed so much over the years, therefore, we have had to adjust what we do to prepare students to meet the demands of the industry. We are now in our third revision of the curriculum offered to students, and continue to work on internship experiences that provide on the job experiences in the student’s area of interest. Networking is such a critical part of the golf industry, so we work to create opportunities that engage students with key stakeholders in the industry. This provides the student with future opportunities for a variety of experiences, especially in the employment arena.
You have served in multiple roles in the past in the Gulf States PGA Section, on PGA Membership Committee, as President of PGM Educational Association among many others, what is the most rewarding part of serving in so many areas within the PGA of America?
To pick the most rewarding part of serving our Association is difficult. I certainly enjoy contributing to the advancement of our PGA Section, the Association, and fellow PGA Member, but serving also allows me to be a better PGA Member. This in turn allows me an opportunity to provide our students with an enhanced experience during their time at Mississippi State, and beyond. I am better able to share industry trends, make adjustments to our curriculum to meet future demands, and create additional opportunities to connect key industry leaders with students. These service efforts have enhanced the experience of our students and elevated the brand of Mississippi State PGA Golf Management.
For a prospective student, how would you describe the program and what they should expect if they are admitted?
The mission of the Mississippi State University PGA Golf Management program is to attract bright, highly motivated men and women, educate and train them, qualify them for membership in the PGA of America, and place them in highly desirable jobs in the golf industry. While enrolled, we help students develop their playing ability, offer a curriculum that prepares students for PGA testing and certification, and guides students through a thorough education in marketing. We not only support students throughout their careers at Mississippi State, but as they continue through their career.
As for what they can expect, they can expect to be challenged, supported, and presented with abundant opportunities. The culture is one of a continuous pursuit of excellence with a sense of family.
You are in the prime of your career, but you also didn’t start yesterday, what keeps you getting up and heading to the University Course every morning?
I had to laugh here, as one of my current students thinks I am 57 years old…so according to that student, I’m near the end of my career, lol. I’d like to think I’m “making the turn” in my career, and the “front 9” has been better than I could have ever imagined. The ability to make an impact in one’s life is what drives me to get up and go to work every day. To think you have an opportunity to influence one’s life and career is very humbling; a responsibility I do not take for granted.
The greatest joy I have in my job is watching former students, with whom you worked closely with for years, have success and achieve their dreams as they move through their careers. While all of the students are special, a few become family and you remain close with them throughout life. Those relationships, with those who become family, are truly special and provide the inspiration to continue the grind to get better.
Alright, let’s get to a few fun ones:
Favorite course you’ve played to date?
I’m going to cheat on this one and answer it a little differently.
- Favorite course in the United States: The Alotian Club; Roland, AR
- Favorite international course: Ballybunion Golf Club; Ballybunion, Ireland
- Favorite historical course: The Old Course at St. Andrews; St. Andrews, Scotland
That is allowed when you throw those out there. Dream foursome, living or dead?
The common answer you see for this question is to select someone like Jack, Tiger, Arnold, etc. However, I would choose a different route and select individuals who have been special in my life and career. As not to risk upsetting anyone by leaving them out, I will leave this foursome anonymous.
Favorite golf purchase in the last year?
This isn’t within the past year, but a few years ago I took a group of students (a leadership team) to Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI. To commemorate the trip, I bought each of them a copper ball mark with the club logo on one side and had their initials inscribed on the other side.
Since you are a certified club fitter for multiple brands, what is your favorite piece of equipment that has come out in recent years?
I am fortunate to be on staff with Ping, and love putters. I don’t change putters very often, so I’d have to say my Ping putter is my favorite piece of equipment.
Who is the most memorable person you have met thru golf?
This may be the toughest question you have asked! There are so many people I have met through golf…professional athletes, country music stars, PGA/LPGA Tour players, actors/actresses, the best PGA Professionals in the world, successful business people, and golfers who just love the game. I honestly don’t know if I can pick the most memorable person I have met through golf as each person you meet has their own memorable qualities!
Man what a good problem to have.
Until Next time,