In this episode, we finish our interview with Tony Pancake, the Director of Golf and Operations at Crooked Stick Golf Club.
In Part II, we discuss Tony’s path to Crooked Stick and learn his advice for young Professionals to set themselves up on a positive career track. We uncover the moment that he can pinpoint that seemed to set his career on a successful track, as well as how his definition of success has evolved over time. And at the end of the interview, he has some great advice for aspiring Professionals on the one thing you should do set yourself up on the right path.
Getting better now podcast presented by the golf business network, this show by golf professionals for golf professionals, profiling experts from inside and outside the golfing does drink to help you advance your career, make a lasting impact, and achieve your goals. Here's your host, PGA professional from St David's Golf Club, Dean Candle. Welcome backDK:
to another episode of the getting better now podcast. What's the key to building a successful career as a golf professional? What are the most important skills necessary to make it in this business? What's the definition of success? Well, today in our second part of our interview with Tony Pancake from crooked stick golf club, we hear his answers to those questions and those answers just might be able to help you in your career. So yes, these are just one man's opinion, but his opinion of somebody that's done it for a long time at a lot of great clubs. So if you haven't heard part one, go ahead and jump back and listen to that and you'll hear some great info on how to better manage your time and also how to delegate properly so that it benefits you. And the people on your staff, but today Tony lets us in on a little bit more about his career and his path to crooked stick and how that can help you get better at what you do each and every day at the club. So here it is. Our continuation of our conversation with Tony Pancake. I hope you enjoy it. So let's switch gears a little bit and talk about you. You had briefly talked about your path to crooked stick, but I really think that there's value in people understanding the paths that successful professionals have taken and maybe what decisions they made along along the way. So give us a little quick history about your, your path to crooked stick.TP:
Yeah. So I, I went to the University of Alabama to play golf and I thought I was going to be a tour player when I got there. I found out there's a whole nother level of golf that, uh, that, that I just don't have the skill for that, uh, but I, I love the game so much. And I had the privilege of working for Hank Johnson who was a golf digest instructor. Um, and we had, it was at the North River Yacht club and we would have golf digest schools there, so I had a chance early on to, to watch Davis love and Bob Toski and Jim Flick and Peter Cost and Jack Lumpkin. I mean these just, you know, nationally renowned or internationally renown instructors give golf lessons and more importantly than that, just how they handled the or carried themselves and how they handled people. It was such a great education for me. Um, and then when I graduated from college I just knew I wanted to be a teacher and follow in their footsteps and I tried to do that for a couple years. Um, and, but what I've found is that I was just physically and mentally worn out of, you know, giving 12 golf lessons a day and Tina balls and I just don't think I could have continued on. So I, I decided to kind of go down the club professional, um, route. And I'm sure glad I did. I'm one of the keys for me, I think dean was that, um, I had an opportunity to kind of do a seasonal situation where I could go to Florida or Arizona in the winter time and be up north in the summertime. And that was one of the best decisions that I made because what that did was that allowed me to network with so many more people. I mean I had twice the number of members because I was at two clubs, one of the winter, one in the summer. And um, I, I really made it a point to try to get to know as many golf professionals from different areas in different sections. Um, and I really didn't know it at the time, but that networking is probably the key to what happened in my career. Now. It doesn't hurt to have the last name of pancake. I can promise you that. But, so when I would meet people, they would remember my name. Um, and I had some very influential people in golf who I got to know. And when it was time to apply for a job and you have a Jack Lumpkin or a peter cost us or Scott Davenport who are willing to either make a phone call for you or are willing to say, hey, I know Tony and he's a, uh, he would do a great job for you mean that's, that was what, that was the engine, what was driving my career to getting me these opportunities.DK:
So for the young assistant that's out there, maybe listening to this and understanding, okay, yeah, networking is really important. I need to expand my network. What do you tell that that young professional about actually how to make that happen?TP:
Yeah. Well, I mean, the first thing I would, I would use my example and say if you could work seasonally, I'm in two parts of the country. I know there's some challenges to that and everybody wants to kind of find a place to live and not have to move. But in the long run for your career, it's probably better to have twice the network than it is to only have, say in, in right now working in Indiana only. But if you could work in Florida in the wintertime or Arizona in the winter time and come back to Indiana in the, you've doubled your network and that can only help you. Um, the other thing I would tell them to do is wherever you are, um, there are very influential people in golf and in influential golf professionals and I would get to know all those people as well as I could. I would shadow them. Um, whoever the merchandiser of the year is say, Hey, can I come over and just introduced myself? I'd love to see your golf shop and spend half an hour with him. Tell me what, what you do to merchandise so well, the best teachers shadow them and we'll go watch him, give some golf lessons. Uh, the best tournament operators. Go, go see if you can watch them run a golf tournament. And um, I mean not only do you learn a great deal to help your career, but you also have developed a relationship. So, I mean, in Indiana, Jack Barbara is the most respected golf professional. And if, if I was a young assistant in Indiana, I would go hang out with Jack Barbara and then when I was applying for a job, I would ask Jack if I could use him as a reference and a, my guess is if Jack says you're a good guy,Speaker 2:
probably going to get a pretty, a pretty strong look from, from whoever you're interviewing with. Can you actually, I don't know if you've ever thought about it, but is there a specific moment or person that you met or you can save you track back, backtrack this step, which led to that step which led to that step, that kind of put the wheels in motion? Or would you say it was just a, a lot of things that kind of came together over time to help you set you on this path? Yeah. Um, I thinkTP:
it was one particular, uh, so I was working as an assistant. I'm in North Carolina. I was working for Jack Lumpkin at the Elk River Club and there was another club in the area that, uh, had a highly respected golf professional. And I just got to know him a little bit and sure enough, five years later, five years later, gosh, there's probably two or three years later, I'm the [inaudible] golf clubs looking for a golf professional. And the club manager called this guy and said, do you have anybody that you would recommend? And he said, Tony never worked for me, but I thought he was really, you know, a guy that had a bright future in golf. So once you reach out to him and the guy called me and I interviewed for the job and I got it. So at a young age, I had a chance to start at a high level club that kind of set me on this path. But it happened because of a relationship that I had established,Speaker 2:
um, as an assistant. So while you can never know when those interactions areTP:
really going to happen or trace back and say, if this didn't happen, then ABC wouldn't have happened after that. But what you're saying is that you can be very proactive in trying to develop these relationships. And in fact, you need to be proactive when it comes to creating a network. I couldn't agree with that more. And not only does it help you with, I think I've said this a little while ago, you learn so much from other people. I mean, we all do things differently and maybe end up with about the same results, but as you spend time with other people, you can see that how they do them and maybe they're doing it more efficiently than you are, maybe they're doing it in a way that stimulates an idea that you could try something new. Um, and then as you, um, as your career continues on, you have these relationships that you can call people and say, Hey, I'm looking for an assistant. Or um, um, our golf committee wants to consider a new format for the member guest tournament. You have these resources that are so valuable, um, through this network. And, uh, so I, I, I couldn't encourage you enough to, to, uh, throw a wide net on that, on that network. So. And so that's pretty high up there. If you were then saying coaching a young assistant or coaching your assistance on how they, what they need to do to progress in their career, but what, are there some other skills you could point out that you've learned over over time that if one of your assistance is asking you where they need to improve or what they need to do to in order to be successful, what are those, those really major skills are that are the ones that make the difference in your mind? Yeah, certainly. Um, I mean there's, there's a lot of important things and this will just be my opinion. I'm not sure how valuable it is, but through the PGA, through our training, we've all learned to, we've learned the skills of merchandising and teaching and tournament operations and, you know, various things like that. And I'm going to say those things were all vitally important, dean, but I would also say that pretty much every PGA member has those skills. So to be really successful you have to somehow distinguish yourself from the pack. And um, so what do you need to do in addition to those skills? And a couple of things, I would say there's number one is just the relationship with people. I mean, you have to have, um, or I shouldn't say have to, but I, I feel very strongly that probably the key to my career has been, um, having people saying positive things about me. Um, and it was, it would be because of the relationship that I have with them and just trying to have a real positive relationship with, uh, whether its members, it's other golf professionals, um, or whomever it is. Um, you know, if, if, if they think highly of you and say good things about you, then that builds your reputation, which then leads to success in a, in your career. The other thing I would say is just this, um, having a, a passion of coming to work every day and just a really positive attitude. I mean, I, I couldn't wait to get to work today and I've been doing this for 31 years and I still, it's like a, it's a beautiful day here in Indiana, but I, I couldn't wait to get here. It's a, we have a Monday outing today. Uh, which, you know, most people say, gosh, wouldn't it be nice to take the day off? Well, it would be, but, um, uh, I've got 25 golf professionals coming out here to play in this outing today with, with, that's hosted by one of our members and I couldn't wait to get here. So, um, you know, having that passion to come to work every day and enjoy your jobs. Um, I, I feel so fortunate. I see people in other businesses and they just don't, they don't look forward to going to work. Well, I don't even feel like I'm going to work. I'm coming here, uh, because I love being here. And just let me add one more thing to that, if you don't mind. The, I think one of the reasons I love it so much is just trying to. I've really worked hard to find a good balance in my life where my, between my family and my faith and to where, um, you know, I am getting time away. I wasn't here yesterday, it was a Sunday in early May and you know, I probably should have been here, but, um, uh, I was here six days last last week. I worked every day and then, uh, my daughter was playing in a tournament in Atlanta, so I flew down there to watch her play the final round and drive her home. So, um, I mean that was, uh, had I not done that, I'm not sure I would have been quite as enthusiastic about being at work this week. So that makes sense. It certainly does. Now, is that a mindset shift for you versus Tony from 15 years ago? Oh, it totally is. I mean, I've definitely grew up in the old school of you got to be the first one there, the last one to leave and you've got to be there anytime. There's a member at the club, you've got to always be there. Um, and just to share a quick story, uh, uh, mentioned that my faith is important to me and my family. We go to church every Sunday morning and when I first got in the golf business, I told my wife, I said, Hey, I'd love to go to church, but I just can't do it. Sunday morning is a busy time at the club. Well, what I've found over the years is that a Sunday, I can come in Sunday early and I can see people off till 8:00 or 8:30. I can go to church. My family, I'm back here by noon. I can see everybody. Uh, I go right soon as I get here after church, I get an a cart and I go from 18 backwards and every member that I missed teeing off the first tee, I get a chance to see him on the back nine. And you know, what the, the members, they brag about the fact that I, that I find it important enough to take my family to church on a Sunday morning, a totally unexpected when I was a young professional. But, uh, it's, it's turned out to be a real positive for me.Speaker 2:
Yeah. I think it'd be interesting to see how, how that mindset evolves over time. I can't agree with you more about how critical that is. I mean I have young kids and I'm just starting to get into the need to be in this place or that place on weekends in particular, so just starting to get into trying to run over to a soccer game, uh, and, and see one of my kids play and, and it's going to be a challenge. But I do think that having that, that mindset and that commitment to other things that are important to you at a lot of clubs, it's going to be hard for people to argue with you. I think most of our members, their families, very important to them and I can't tell how many times somebody said to me, make sure that you're there for as many things as you can be or it goes by quickly. So make sure that you're there. It's very important. So I'm hoping that over time, that old school mentality about being there sunup to sundown and if you're not, you're somehow not doing your job well enough at it. Seems like that will need to change, uh, as, as time goes on in our business, but we'll see. Yeah. I mean if, if we can't do our jobs in 60 hours a week, then maybe we're not doing them very well. I mean, I hate to say it like that, but I would challenge it if you're not getting your job done in 60 hours a week, you need to step back and take a look at what you're doing. Are you being strategic with your time? Are you delegating well and um, um, my guess is the answer is probably not. The answer is probably no. And this is one instance where technology will help us. We know that technology may keep us connected to work maybe after hours or more than, than before email and text messages, but it does provide that opportunity to be connected without having to just be on property the whole time. So that I would say that is one benefit. It's just a matter of us all learn how to manage that. The technology and the communication in the most effective as we've talked about that. Yeah. Good point. So just before we wrap up, we've talked a lot about a quote unquote successful career and getting a gaining success in your career. If you could just share maybe what's your definition of that now? And I'm sure after talking to you, I know that that definition probably has changed over time. What is, what is a successful career to you these days?TP:
That's a great question. When I first got into golf, I wanted to be at the highest ranked club. I could be at a one a to win awards. I wanted to win tournaments. I mean, it was all about kind of self promotion and, and I've, I've, uh, I mean I'm, I'm almost embarrassed to say that, but, uh, that, that's true. And I think a lot of professionals probably have those aspirations over time. You realize that, that, that stuff is fleeting and it's not all that important. Um, if you ask me now what success looks like, I would say success looks like having a positive impact on every person that I connect with on a daily basis. And that may start with the, um, the ups driver. It may be the president of the club, it may be a staff member, it may be a junior golfer that just shot 82 yesterday and as you know, feels like he's got a, that is games gone south that, you know, I need to make sure that I take the time to connect with each one of those people so that they know that they're important in my life, that they're important and what they're doing and that care about them. And um, you know, I, I want to do anything I can to help them achieve whatever they're trying to achieve. So if, uh, if I can do that every day, it's been a successful day. And um, it's amazing when you focus on the needs of others, how your own needs ended up being taken care ofSpeaker 2:
[inaudible] well that's, that's really valuable information in there. And I think just a reminder for everyone that that should be our goal on a daily basis. It's so easy to get distracted from that, isn't it? Especially when we get into the heart of the season and we're bogged down with all of our responsibilities, but being able to make an impact every day is really what will provide success however you define it in your career. So that's an awesome reminder. Yeah. Well I appreciate that and it's easy if you just watch people you can, you can tell what they needTP:
and you can tell when somebody's having a bad day, you can tell them somebody is having a good day and you can celebrate something with them. Um, but you know, at some point in my career, and I don't know when was, but I changed my focus from myself to the people around me and I can tell you it's a, there's a lot more joy and in focusing on other people that are done on myself. One quick question though on that note, do you think though, as a young assistant, you need some focus on yourself as you're, as you're building your career? Or do you feel like now looking back, if you would have had that that external focus on, on others earlier on things would have, not that they didn't go well for you, but, um, that, that would have benefited you as a younger professional? I mean, I, I definitely think you've got to pay attention to what you're doing and, but, but again, I, I would say that the more you focus on other people and connecting with them, it's helping you more than you realize. And uh, but I mean, for example, if you, if I was a young assistant and I didn't have much teaching experience, well then of course I would want to focus on me and the fact that I need to get more teaching experience. But if you did it in a way that was focused on others, it could really help you. For example, you could volunteer somewhere in a first tee program and, uh, get some teaching experience that way. Or You could find the teacher of the year and your section and go watch him or her and, and try to learn as much from them and get to know them. So again, you're, you're kind of focused on other people, but you're, you're doing it with a, um, a goal in mind that that's a need that you haveSpeaker 2:
personally. So I think that's probably a good place. Good point to wrap up here, Tony. I think there's just a lot of value that everybody's going to be able to get from this conversation. I think just to sum it up, that thought process, that mindset of trying to make an impact on others every day at the club is really, I think the key that we can, we can drill down to here. So that's an awesome reminder for everybody. Well thanks. Good to be with you today. Well, thanks again for your time, Tony. I really appreciate it and I enjoyed having young. Okay. Talk to you soon.Speaker 1:
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