Q&A with the PGA of Alberta President

In 1985, Tom Grenier moved west to Calgary from Ontario and began working at the Calgary G&CC, where he has remained for the past 30 years, now serving as Head Professional.

 Grenier actually has been involved in the game since the age of 14, when he was given a job doing the menial tasks around his hometown course in Burlington. From those experiences, he moved on to becoming an assistant golf professional and fully immersing himself in the industry. In 1985, he began working at the Calgary G&CC first as an assistant and then as the head professional.

This year is Grenier’s first as the president of the PGA of Alberta where he’ll serve a two-year term. iG’s Gord Montgomery spoke in a telephone interview with him in regard to his new position and the challenges he sees in the time ahead.

Inside Golf: How long have you served as a board member with the PGA of Alberta?

Tom Grenier: I am entering my fifth year; this is my second term.

iG: This is your first year as president. What is your role in that position? What do you see as your most important task?

 Tom Grenier/PGA of Alberta

Grenier: Probably my most important role is to offer some direction to the association, make sure we stay on track, on course, that we stay rooted to our core values. We have approximately 550 members, so I want to make sure that our board is acting responsibly, acting in the best interests of those members. Those are probably the major objectives I see going in as president. Beyond that, we want to make sure the PGA of Alberta and the PGA of Canada (both) have a good brand and make sure that we do things that align ourselves with the brand. Basically, make sure we’re good citizens of the game of golf, provincially and even nationally.

iG: What do you feel is the most important role for a Club Professional?

Grenier: You have to be a good leader. You have to be able to lead a team of individuals who work for you or with you. There are a lot of facets to being a good leader — you have to have sound judgement, a good work ethic.

iG: How do you view the present state of the game?

Grenier: I wish I could say that there was a little more positive vibe about it. I think if you dial the clock back to when Tiger Woods was coming onto the scene, there was this euphoria, a huge excitement. People were tuning in who weren’t golf fans to watch him play and dominate the game.

He made it athletic. All of a sudden golfers weren’t being stereotyped as "non-athletic." They were fit, they were working out in the gym. That euphoria has been lost a little bit, I think.

Things have changed as to how families view their leisure time. As it relates to the state of our game, as we all know, golf can take a fair amount of time during the day. Those are maybe reasons why we’ve had a challenge to grow the game.

I certainly feel golf, in and of itself, is a fantastic game. It’s enjoyable. It gets people out to play. There’s a healthy aspect to it in terms of lifestyle. I think we’re going through a stretch where it’s somewhat challenging. It will survive but I’d certainly like to see it continue to grow and attract more golfers to the game. There are a lot of organizations aware of the challenges and trying to do something about it.

iG: You may have answered my next question with that response, but what do you see as the biggest challenges for the PGA of Alberta, going forward?

Grenier: As far as pressing issues as it relates to the state of the game, we’re seeing some improvement of our golf associations working closer together, to work on problems collectively as opposed to individually. I think as long as everyone has the same goal, and intent in mind, we can be successful. In other words, if we all work towards a common goal, we offer strength in numbers and synergies between some of our different organizations. That can pose challenges, too, but that may allow us to perhaps grow the game or develop programs that have some sort of an impact on our current state.

Within the association, another challenge the last few years is we are losing a lot of good people to other fields of work. The oil patch can be a lucrative place to be employed and is just one alternative. The demands on professionals in terms of time at the club, and lifestyle can make it a challenging occupation. In the last two years, I have had three of my professionals leave the business for jobs outside of the industry. In many cases, this has created a shortage of skilled professionals from which to draw from.

iG: Where do you see the PGA of Alberta going in the next three to five years?

Grenier: In terms of the programs that we have and that we offer our members, such as the education we provide, we have an excellent trade show which is the best in the country, those are things that are very important to the core values of the PGA of Alberta. There could be some challenges as we move ahead, so certainly one of my goals would be to try and maintain what we have and look at opportunities to grow those.

I guess one of the other challenges is, when you take a look at the state of the game and the flood (in Southern

Alberta in 2013) and the impact it’s had on some golf courses is that for some courses it comes down to dollars and cents. They have a budget and have to manage the operation. We have to continue to show the owners and operators the value a PGA Professional brings to the operation.

One of the challenges I guess we face is that if they look at reducing costs or expenses or managing their operation in a different manner, how does that affect our PGA members? Does it reduce the number of opportunities we have. Certainly we’d like to grow the number of opportunities we have.

One of the great opportunities we have, that we’re seeing at a lot of golf courses, is that a lot of our PGA of Canada pros are becoming trained in the different areas that make them candidates for general manager or executive professional positions. If we can have growth in those areas, that would certainly benefit our PGA.

iG: Why does a person like yourself take the time to volunteer for this position, given your workload at your job plus having a family?

Grenier: Finding the time might mean after a day’s work, you’re doing PGA stuff at home where you work well into the evening. As far as finding the time, I am busy here but you’ve just got to find the time so I don’t look at that as a huge challenge. Nobody forced me into this position.

As for why, I’ve really benefitted (from being in the industry). I feel very fortunate to be working at the job I am. I have a fantastic job, a great golf course to work at. As a member of the PGA of Alberta, I participated in a lot of golf events — more as an assistant when I had a little more time. I thought now that my family is a little older and I do have a little more time, it was my desire to put something back into our PGA, learn a little bit more about the inner workings of our operation which has been an experience for me, and even self-development.

I am certainly not taking the next two years lightly. I think there’s going to be a lot of challenges so I guess I’m looking forward with sort of nervous anticipation that hopefully everything runs smoothly. I just wanted to be a bit more involved.