Do ever feel like the constant ping of email and text messages are keeping you from getting your most important work done each and every day? Ever feel like it’s the only thing you do and that as a Golf Professional, your job is too centered around a computer screen and a cell phone? I know I do.
In my conversation with today’s guest, Tony Pancake the Director of Golf and Operations at Crooked Stick Golf Club, we learn from a 30+ year Head Golf Professional how he’s managing the expectations of the digital age. He outlines how his mindset was forced to change as he became busier and busier, and how he’s learned to delegate in a way that benefits his staff and himself.
A decorated PGA Professional, he is a 2-time PGA Section Junior Golf award winner, 2-time PGA Section Horton Smith Award winner, 2-time PGA Section Golf Professional of the Year, PGA Section Merchandiser of the Year, and PGA Section Bill Strausbaugh award winner. An accomplished player, playing college golf at the University of Alabama, in 2014 Tony won the Indiana State Senior Open.
As a mentor to many, Tony has helped develop over 30 former Assistants and Interns into current Head Professionals. His knowledge and experience is valuable to any Golf Professional.
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Getting Better Now podcast today. In this episode, we have part one of our two part conversation with a decorated PGA Professional Tony Pancake, the Director of Golf and Operations at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. Tony's been a Head Professional for over 30 years at multiple top 100 clubs. During this conversation, we cover a number of topics we get into specifically how he's learned to handle something that I know bogs down many of us and that's email, text, and phone calls. That constant influx of messages and that feeling that you just have to respond right away. That gets us all I know a little bit anxious. He's seeing this change in his members expectations over time with this digital age that we're in and how they need responses right away, or at least it seems like it, and he's changed his mindset to be able to deal with this effectively and we talk about that today in part one. We also talk about something that I know I struggle with personally and that's delegation, how to assign tasks and responsibilities and authority to others that you work with on your staff in a way that benefits both them and yourself. Tony has some great advice in that regard. Tony's been at this a long time. He's an eight time award winner in his section. He has a wealth of information, wealth of experience, and I really think that you're gonna get a lot of great value out of this conversation. So here it is part one of our conversation with Tony Pancake. I hope you enjoy it. Tony Pancake. Welcome. Thanks for your time today.Tony:
Thanks Dean. Great to be with you this morning.Dean:
Let's give everybody a little bit of background right now about Crooked Stick itself. I think we all know at least something about Crooked Stick obviously, but if you could go and give us a little context, talk a little bit about what happens there on a day to day basis and some more info about the club itself.Tony:
Yeah, Crooked Stick is really a special place. A special club. It's Pete Dye's first championship golf course. He's from Indianapolis. He built the club in 1964. He actually, he and his wife Alice live on the 18th hole here, but Crooked Stick is a limited membership private golf club with what I would say is a very sophisticated golf membership. I mean these people are passionate about the game. They're good players. We have 150 of our 225 members have single digit handicap indexes so they just really...they're really passionate about the game. We have a wall of fame upstairs and we have over 20 members who have either won a state or national competition or they're in a golf hall of fame somewhere. So, it's really been a great a club for me to be a part of and it's also home for me. My wife and I grew up in southern Indiana, so to be back here next to where we grew up has been pretty special. I'm starting my 15th year here at Crooked Stick this year.Dean:
So I think from the outside looking in, we would all say, wow, phenomenal place to be. There's tons of history of Crooked Stick. It's a top 100 club. Tony's got it as great as it could be, right? He's at home like you just mentioned, but there are obviously challenges that, that come up with a position like that and they come up every day. How have you learned over time about working with these challenges? And being able to meet the expectations that you're membership has and the expectations that you have of yourself. How have you addressed these challenges and maybe what specifically are some of the challenges that you feel like you face every day?Tony:
The first thing I will say about that Dean is that I've been fortunate to be at some great clubs. I mean, I got my first head professional job at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, which is a top 100 club. And I also worked at the Baltimore Country Club, which is top 100. And so people think, well, Gosh, Tony's, you know, he's on this path that's just so much different, so much easier. But I'm telling you that's not the case. The problems that golf professionals face at any club are the same problems that I face every day. I don't think it really matters what the ranking of your club is or if you've had national tournaments there or not. You're dealing with member expectations. One thing I would say about that is that we all want to exceed our members' expectations. But one of the things that I've learned over 30 years is sometimes I, I just think expectations are higher than they really are. I mean, for example, are you worried about returning all your messages within an hour? Well,you know, when that message is on your computer, that email, you're feeling the pressure to return it, but you know, maybe that expectation for your member is that you'd get back to him in the next day or two. And so I think that we've got to be careful as golf professionals not to elevate those expectations beyond what they really are to the point where we just run ourselves ragged and we've got to find a balance in all this and do the best job that we can, but not to the point where we're not enjoying what we do every day.Dean:
You mentioned answering messages. I really think email and messages are...they're a big, it's a big part of what we do on a day to day basis. It's how we communicate with a certain percentage of our members. So how have you learned then new ways or have you had to change your mindset over time? Like maybe over the last 10 years or so about how really have the methods that you're using to go about and, and communicate via email or even text messages.:
That's a great question. And one that I struggle with every day as to am I doing this the right way? And, and, uh, am I being as efficient as I possibly can. Um, this is my 31st year as a head golf professional and what I tell people, this is probably going to be my most difficult year yet. It's not like other businesses where after you've done it for 20 years, you just kind of ride the wave into the sunset.Tony:
Uh, golf, uh, being a golf professional business seem to work like that because those expectations maybe raise a little bit every year. Again, part of that might be on our ourselves, but, uh, certainly in the way that members communicate with me, uh, that has changed dramatically in the time that I've been a, uh, a golf professional. So, um, you know, in the old days it was basically just a telephone. I was returning phone messages all the time, but now I've got a cellphone, I've got a work phone, I've got a home phone, I've got a home email, a work email, have got text messaging. I mean, there, there's so many messages that I'm getting from various resources every day that I'm trying to manage those in a, in a timely manner without just a, I guess mentally driving me crazy as is. Sure a challenge now. What I've, what I've tried to do now is basically almost batch that work where say for example, I'll come in and the first hour or two the day will be focused strictly on messages and I'm trying to return emails, text messages, phone messages just to get to everybody. That's, that's, that's looking for something for me. Um, and then now I'm going to talk here in just a second about delegating. But, um, you know, once I've kind of run through those messages, the more replies I give on my email, the more my email box fills up again. So I want to be careful not to just reply a without really trying to solve the problem. So I want to be a specific as I can when I replied to a message and try to get it solved as opposed to continuing it on with a long chain of have more messages. Um, but I think the other key to this is knowing, you know, what's really important for your membership and then making sure that you're not missing out on those key opportunities because you're at your computer and you're, you're trying to return emails mean that that's a good thing. But if your members don't see you, um, then it's a problem. So for example, I'll come in and the first thing I'll do is look at our place sheet for the day and see when people are playing golf and know when I need to be on the first tee or when I need to be standing in the golf shop. You won't see me on my computer returning emails between 1130 and 1:30 every day. I mean, that's a time that our members are here. They want to see their golf professional and I need to be getting the pulse of club when the members are here and just making sure they're having a great time. So, um, I'm trying to return messages in the morning, I'm trying to return them in the evening and uh, just be focused on doing it at the right time as opposed to just when the messages come in, if that makes sense. Sure. Now was there a time where you felt like you weren't managing that well and it was taking you away from, from doing what's important that being out in front of your members? So has this changed over time, like recently in the last five or six years for you? Or was it something that you kind of always knew it was important? Well, I think the kind of the paradigm shift for me was, uh, having any messages in my inbox was a, that's like that light flashing on your phone. It just was a, it was kind of wearing on me a little bit and I felt like, Hey, I've got to get back to these people. They're asking me to do something for them and I really want to do a great job and I want them to know how important they are to me, so I've got to be very responsive and I just got to the point that the more I tried to respond to them, the more attention I gave him, the more it actually snowballed into more time commitment for me, more work for me, and then I just kinda had to take a step back and say, hey, this is going to overwhelm me if I'm not careful. I mean, I love to teach golf. I love to play golf and you know, I want to ride around the golf course and say hello to people and meet their guests and I can't do that. If I'm going to be on my email. And honestly I could return emails from 6:30 in the morning until 6:00 at night. It never stopped. I think they would just continue on like that. Do you,Speaker 2:
what we're talking about meeting expectations and, and maybe somewhat of our own internal expectations that we have to get back to people and respond to people as our responsibilities have changed over time and certainly in your time as a head golf professional, do you feel like the members themselves, they're your average member that his or her expectations have changed as far as what they, they expect from you moved from a communication standpoint, from a response standpoint now versus 20 years ago?Tony:
That's a great question and I'm not sure I know the answer. Um, uh, I think generally, uh, the communication that he comes so easy for people. I mean in the old days you probably thought a little bit more about, all right, what am I going to ask for and when's the right time to ask and how to ask and things like that. Well, now with text messaging especially, I mean, it's so easy to send off a text and, or I mean email is pretty easy as well. But. So I, I just think there's, there's more requests coming in and um, I mean it could be something as, as simple as a, hey, can you go check on my locker and see if I left my shoes in there? I mean, um, you know, those were, it's a pretty simple task, but in the old days nobody would, even, nobody would even ask that. Um, right now it's, it's definitely gonna be something that again, it's so easy and people want the, our culture is one that we all want instant answers. I mean, I'm the same way when I have a question, I get my phone out and try to figure out the answer pretty quickly. So,Speaker 2:
so then we can say that you've developed then this system of batching your emails and your messages, which I think is phenomenal. That's really the only way that we can do it and be able to get out from behind our desk when we need to. So that's one method. But you, you hit on delegating as well. So talk about kind of your evolution of, of being able to delegate to your staff and what that means for you now.Tony:
It was a young professional. You really, um, you want the members to gain confidence in you, your ability to solve problems, to meet their needs and to, um, you want them to know that they're important in your life. So, uh, it, it's hard. It was very difficult for me early on to not want to solve everybody's problem for them. I mean, I want to be the guy that's the superman that can, that can take care of anything anybody. And I think that most golf professionals are like that and I think that's a quality that's really positive for, for our profession. And I wouldn't want anybody to lose that. But at the same time, um, we all can't do everything for everybody and, and, and be good at it. All right? There's just not enough hours in the day. Not if you're going to find a nice balance in your life between, um, your family and your hobbies and your friends and, um, just whatever. All you have a that you're trying to balance out, so you've got to start delegating. And it took me longer than it should have. Um, but one of the things I noticed when I started delegating is how much more engaged in my staff became. And I realized that by not delegating, I was really holding them back from their professional development. And as I started to give them more tasks, I saw more energy out of them, more engagement out of them. I also saw them prove their relationship with the members and my relationship didn't, didn't suffer at all. I mean actually having a little more free time then allowed me to connect with the members even on a deeper level. So maybe that's playing golf or maybe that's walking the range are again, being able to get the golf cart and go out on the golf course and, and, uh, see a member I haven't seen for two weeks and check with him on how he's doing, how his family's doing and just, uh, um, I never expected it to, to benefit me the way that it has. But the more I delegate, the better things go for everybody here at the club. And that's interesting because I definitely agree. I think that we all have, I don't know if a complex is the right word or not, but over giving up some responsibility and then how the members may view us if a, well dean's not doing that anymore. He passed that off or Tony looks like he passed that off because we're worried that they're going to say it's because we don't care. Right? But I think the really interesting part here is that you've pointed out that it's made you better and able to then do your job at a higher level because you are freed up to do a little bit more. That's, that's great. And a good reminder for everybody out there to, uh, to understand what the benefits of delegating may be. And on that note, you also pointed out to me when we chatted earlier, and I thought this was really cool about delegate Anthony wanted. One things that I personally struggle with is I don't want the staff thinking that I'm just dumping my tasks on that. But you actually go one step further by taking one of the less favorable tasks, right? And doing that yourself while you delegate something to a staff member. Yeah. I think that, uh, we all know what, what's, I guess maybe the less desirable jobs and the more desirable jobs. And then so at times I'll try to figure out, all right, what to really motivate an assistant. How about if I let him go give a golf lesson instead of me? And then I'll go watch the shop for, you know, for an hour or, or um, you know, how about if I let them run a golf tournament and I'll, I'll go do something else, uh, that, that uh, you know, maybe a merchandising thing or um, or it could be just the opposite of that. But so as I'm trying to help the assistance develop professionally, figuring out where they need more experience, where they're trying to grow a little bit and what would again kind of excite them about something new that they're learning, um, that that's a great trade off for me. And then for them to see that, hey, tony is willing to do whatever it takes for our operation to be successful and he's not just taking the best jobs. Then that again helps my relationship with, with, uh, with the staff and I think garners respect from them that, uh, this is not about me, this is about us. And it's also about their, uh, professional development. Um, you, you talked a little bit about, um, you know, the members and US delegating responsibility. How will they react to that? Well, um, again, uh, one of the concerns when you start delegating is, is the quality going to suffer? And you know, in the beginning it might. But what I've found a lot of times is these guys are better at some of these things than I am. Um, so especially if it has something to do with technology. I mean, a perfect example is we're introducing an APP here at crooked stick. And I mean, I, I'm, I'm the least qualified person to, to, to try to implement this. So I've let my staff run with it because there are a lot better than I am now. I'm still overseeing it, I, I'm, I'm learning a lot about it and I know what the overall look of it is, but um, in the and the, uh, data that's in, in there and what we're trying to communicate so that it's consistent with our vision of who we are here, but they're the ones doing the detail work and they are way better at it than I am. So, uh, I'm, I'm not [inaudible] when I delegate, I don't give it up, I'm still kind of overseeing it, but it's an opportunity for me to say, go back to the member and say, Hey, I delegated this to Ryan, um, because he really needs this experience. How do you do what could he do better and use it for an opportunity for learning and for me to just maintain that relationship withSpeaker 2:
the member. True. And I did it just asking for that feedback to that member. That eliminates any possibility that somebody would think you, you're giving up something because you just don't care enough. Right? Exactly. Yeah. That follow ups really important. That's great. That's great insight there. So we're going to stop right here with this episode of the getting better now podcast. I hope that you're enjoying our conversation with Tony Pancake and that you come back and join us for part two. We get into talking about Tony's career, specifically his career path, and have some great advice for aspiring professionals on how they can set themselves up for a successful career. Thanks again for listening. I'll talk to you again soon.Speaker 1:
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