Last Updated on Thursday, 15 November 2007 00:22 Tuesday, 13 November 2007 23:39
Imagine if you can, handling the day-to-day operations at the provincial office that coordinates communications and programs for approximately 700 golf professionals across the province of British Columbia. While it might appear somewhat daunting, considering realities like geographical logistics, Brian Butters of Vancouver meets the challenges head on as Executive Director of the Professional Golfers’ Association of BC, an organization formed in 1934.
Butters, 57, has been with the PGA of B.C. since April 2005, having previously enjoyed a long career in communications, including stints as Editor-in-Chief of The Province newspaper in Vancouver and Publisher of several other Canadian daily newspapers. He’s the proud father of two daughters and has had a life-long interest in golf. He recently completed three years as President of the Marine Drive Golf Club, plays to a three handicap and enjoys tournament golf as well as social rounds with friends.
Inside Golf spoke briefly with Butters at the annual PGA of B.C. Merchandise Show at Penticton in October. Later, we contacted him in Vancouver and posed a few questions he agreed to consider for public consumption. Butters responded with enthusiasm and panache, testimony to the commitment to his role and to the organization.
IG: Has the role of the golf professional changed over the past decade?
BB: “No question about it, the business of golf has changed a lot in recent years. In previous years, professionals had an easier-going environment to manage. Today's expectations and requirements are much more demanding.”
IG: Exactly what has changed?
BB: “Owners of golf courses today want to see their facilities run on a businesslike footing. The days of the golf pro lounging about the pro shop shooting the breeze with whoever was around to listen are long gone. Now it's a question of delivering a return on the investment the owners have made and creating a steady stream of customer service for users of the facility, whether they be green-fee players or upper-crust, private club members.”
BB: “There are a lot of factors at play here. This is an age where competition among golf facilities is as fierce as it has ever been. Look around at the new golf developments that have sprung up around B.C. There is a whole lot of product for the consumer to choose from. The Okanagan-Shuswap area has seen some top-line facilities come on stream within the last two years, with more to come, from Tobiano on Kamloops Lake to Talking Rock at Little Shuswap to Canoe Creek in Salmon Arm. The emergence of these courses has raised the bar as far as customer service is concerned.
“So, when players who are members of a golf course like, say, Marine Drive in Vancouver play one of these new facilities and have a really positive experience, they'll come back to their home club and talk about it to their pals. So the pressure to replicate that same kind of experience then falls upon the professionals who manage the home club, to ensure their members' expectations are being met or hopefully exceeded. And that's not as easy as it may seem.”
IG: Any specific skills you see in today’s successful golf professionals?
BB: “Professionals today have to be master marketers, excellent retailers, adept at handling customer issues of all kinds and innovators in the manner in which the golf experience is presented to their consumers. It's a tall order.”
IG: What role might the Zone Office play in assisting Members to adjust to market or business trends and demands?
BB: “We offer our members the opportunity to stay in touch with industry trends through educational seminars each year. Through organizing golf tournaments and social events at which our members attend, there are chances for people to 'talk shop' with one another and compare notes and ideas on situations they're facing. The ability to learn something from one's peers is a powerful tool and we do our best to create the environment for that to take place.”
IG: What challenges does the organization face in the immediate future?
BB: “It's important that in today's marketplace, our members present themselves as the best and most-qualified option for golf course owners and managers to hire to run their facilities. Those operators have a choice: they can hire a fully trained CPGA professional or they can go some other route.
“We want to make sure the first option they consider is to hire a member of our association who can really bring something to the table to advance that business.”
IG: How about the long-term future?
BB: “To stay relevant and valuable, our members must understand that continuous education and qualification is vital. To that end, the CPGA has developed a new membership and education structure that will allow individual professionals to get a solid grounding in all aspects of the golf business and also have the chance to develop specialties that distinguish them from other professionals and allow them to offer employers that little something 'extra'.
“It may be that a professional is an exceptional teacher of golf; he or she will have the chance to develop their teaching skills to the utmost degree and be able to advertise that additional expertise to people who are looking for it. It’s the same with retail ability or food and beverage expertise, or any number of other aspects of the business. Those who are highly trained will benefit from better job opportunities and ultimately better compensation.”
IG: Is there such a thing as a “typical day” in your current position?
BB: “One of the great things about the role I'm in is its variety. No two days are the same. I can be assisting my co-workers in running a professional golf tournament one day and spend the next one in conversations with sponsors or business partners. The day after that might be involved with interacting with our 12-member Board of Directors.
“The great thing about it is that it all involves golf, a game that is in my blood, so a lot of the time it doesn't feel like 'work' in the normal sense. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to do something I like with a great game like golf as the backdrop.”
IG: What specific changes or improvements to PGA of BC operations have you been associated with?
BB: “I was fortunate to inherit an excellent office environment and operational structure from Steve Carroll when he left here in early 2005 to become Executive Director of our parent association, the CPGA.
“With the assistance of some outstanding co-workers such as Event and Communications Manager Tasha Bukovnik, we've been able to raise the bar in terms of the quality experience our members and others in the golf community will get when they participate in one of our events. It gives us a lot of pleasure to know that we've delivered a top-notch event experience to people who are in the business of providing that very commodity.
“And to add a few events to the mix, such as a separate championship for our Head Professionals only and a season-long series of one-day events for them to play in and mix with each other, has been satisfying.”
IG: Is there anything you find particularly satisfying about going to work everyday?
BB: “When you think about it, your average golf professional is by definition an affable, outgoing type of person who exudes enthusiasm about the game. To work among about 700 of those people on a day-to-day basis is a lot of fun and very infectious. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
By Glen Erickson
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