Campbell’s PGA Golf Management program teaches both the business and sport of golf and now boasts an impressive indoor facility inside the former Shouse Dining Hall
Nestled in the heart of Murray Residence hall — in an area formerly known as Shouse Dining Hall — Campbell University PGA Golf Management students learn every aspect of golf from tee box to clubhouse.
“I remember when someone first taught me, and the joy I found in golf,” says sophomore Mia Stover. “I wanted to give that feeling to someone else.”
PGA Golf Management is a niche program.
Students earn a degree while becoming an expert in both the game of and the business of golf. Only 17 universities in the nation offer the program, which is accredited by The Professional Golfers’ Association of America.
Campbell stands strokes above the rest by offering a full Business Administration degree for every PGA Golf Management student, while opening the door to earn a master’s from the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business in the school’s 4+1 program.
“This is an opportunity, basically, that you’re not going to find anywhere else,” says senior Parker Spear.
“Golf” and “Campbell University” have become synonymous over the past 50-plus years, starting with the program’s only national title — an NAIA title for the men’s team in 1970 — and the programs’ recent string of six consecutive Big South Championships.
Today, Keith Hills Golf Club and its course are home to the men’s and women’s programs, in addition to the PGAM program. The golf teams’ success at the Division I level has rubbed off on their School of Business counterparts.
Each of the 17 PGA certified programs send their best athletes to compete for the national crown every November. Campbell has won of those six national titles, more than any program in the country. In fact, the Fighting Camels captured the 2021 Jones Cup by the largest scoring margin in tournament history.
“That’s just kind of the expectation that gets set from Day 1 is, ‘You’re going to come here, you’re going to get better,” says Kevin Nagy, the program’s assistant director and internship coordinator. “And if you’re not a competitive person, you kind of get turned into one eventually.”
There’s a new face leading the Campbell’s PGAM program, its first female director Gabriella Story, who took over in the fall. A graduate of NC State, Story spent her first three years post-graduation working as an assistant golf professional at golf clubs in Florida and Maryland before returning to her alma mater in 2017 to be student services coordinator for NC State’s PGAM program. She climbed the ranks in Raleigh before coming to Buies Creek.
Her goals at Campbell include strengthening the University’s partnerships with other PGAM programs, introducing new recruitment tactics and increasing the male-dominated program’s female representation. She also hopes to spread her love of the game in the form of lessons for faculty, staff and students.
“I’m thrilled to use my passion for golf and education to pour into young minds,” she says.
Her staff includes Campbell alum and current assistant director and internship coordinator Kevin Nagy, along with first-year program assistant Quentin Cummings. Both graduates of PGAM programs and are PGA-certified professionals.
“As long as you enjoy being around the game of golf, you enjoy watching others get better and you enjoy being around people, that’s where our program really shines,” says Cummings.
The real education blossoms in the internship setting.
Students are required to work multiple internships during their experience, spending three to six months traveling the country, learning every job imaginable at a given golf course. Over the last three years, Campbell students have landed internships at 15 of the top 20 rated courses in the United States by Golf Digest.
“I find the internships very rewarding in my journey, because we learned everything on a golf course,” says sophomore Matthew Gibbs.
Students continue to take online classes through the School of Business while managing a full workload on the course.
Nolan Hesko is preparing to graduate and begin his professional journey. His first internship witnessed the amazing views at Grandfather Country Club in Linville, North Carolina. Spear also served time at the historic 100-year old Deepdale Golf Club in North Hills, New York, along with a unique summer experience learning the ropes at Mountain Lakes Golf Course — the 10th best course in the state of Florida according to Golf Digest.
Every internship Hesko landed was through a connection at Campbell and the PGAM program.
“When I tell you can get a job anywhere out there … I literally could call up somebody right now and land a golf job if I really needed it,” says Hesko, the fifth-year senior. “It’s those small connections that add up, and that’s why I came here to Campbell.”
From the playing standpoint, PGAM students work to pass a PGA-certified 36-hole playing ability test during their college career. These students are motivated to beat one another, while also ensuring everyone at Campbell improves their scores.
“My fellow students and I are practicing for five days a week, if not more,” says Connor Woods. “Being able to grow the game and helping everybody out with the game I love is so rewarding and makes me want to go to work every day.”
Stover, meanwhile, is on the front nine of her journey. She was formally introduced to golf during the COVID pandemic while living in Waxhaw, North Carolina.
Once she started playing competitively against her classmates, however, the switch flipped in her game.
“After struggling my first semester, I worked on my game a ton,” Stover says. “Now I can keep up with the competition, and it’s fun talking smack to the other people.”
“I mean, that’s what families do.”
Campbell recently made an investment in the analytics-driven development of their players.
Based out of a converted dining hall on campus, students can study at the Shouse PGA Golf Management Learning Facility from PGA-certified professionals, practice on any course in the country and fine-tune their putting skills for every break and turn on the course. A former dining hall on campus, Shouse has traded collard greens for putting greens, iced tea for tee boxes and sandwiches for sand wedges.
“Everything you could ever need is right here on campus,” Story says. “You’ve got [Keith Hills], an amazing practice facility and indoor practice facility. You have faculty available and ready for help with class, to land internships and for life overall.”
The centerpiece of the indoor practice facility is the TrackMan golf simulator.
Pick any course in the country, find any pin location or wind conditions, you name it — the virtual simulator provides a nearly identical test for these golfers. Then you add in the state-of-the art putting simulator, which calculates bend, break and slope into a various shot. Combine that with a host of mats and devices that measure speed, distance, and the various nuances of your short game for that holistic development as a golf student.
“Campbell is the best playing program in the country, that’s our reputation,” says Nagy. “When the students come in, you just kind of get swept into that culture and want to do everything possible to improve your game.”
And it’s obvious — the program is fun. It’s considered by some to be almost an extension of Greek Life for golf fanatics.
“We spend almost every waking second together,” says Spear. “When I first arrived in 2018, we had an awesome fall cookout — burgers, golf and cracking jokes all night. I had no clue who everyone was that first week on campus, but all of a sudden I felt right at home.”
That culture is fostered by Story and her staff, who regularly spend four to five hours on the course bonding over the game. Even if that means playing against them in a round of 18. It’s an approach that students like Mia Stover appreciate.
“I don’t want to be a number,” she says. “Coming here, so many people came up to me and they instantly knew me and cared about me as a golfer and a person. That really matters.”