Are you happy with your golf clubs?

How to Become a PGA Professional with Zachary J. Mckinley

Published on 03/14/2023 · 33 min readGolf Expert Andrew Howard sits down with PGA Professional Zachary J. Mckinley to chat about how he got to where he is now and his future goals in the sport!
By Golf Expert Andrew Howard

Photo Amauri Cruz Filho


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get started?

McKinley (PGA): My name is Zach McKinley. I've been a PGA Professional since April of 2020. I went to Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina and completed 16 months of internship. I now work at Shelter Harbor Golf Club in Rhode Island. I worked at Naples National Golf Club this winter, but this would be my second season here at Shelter. And we're still figuring out where we want to go this winter!

Fair enough. It sounds like you're all over the map. South, north, east, west!

Yeah…I went out on one internship; I went back home to Michigan, and the next time I was in Colorado, then I was in Nashville, and then I was in North Carolina. So, like you said, I went all over the place!

Internship Experiences

How have those experiences been? I bet you learned something different from each of those?

You take away different things from each one. I wish that when I was younger, I could have had some more maturity than I do now and taken some more of the life lessons away a little easier and a little sooner. It definitely has been different going everywhere. North Carolina to Colorado is definitely a different little bit of a culture shock, especially coming from growing up in Michigan. It's definitely a culture shock. Going to North Carolina and then living in Florida is even different.

It’s like a fantasy land down there. It’s crazy. So it's been great to experience my love for travel. Hoping to maybe go to Texas this winter for my winter gig, since I only worked six months or so up north in about six months or so down south. I’m eventually hoping to become my first assistant or head sessional at a place where I can establish a year-round job—either up here in the northeast where I'm at now, or somewhere in the Midwest where I'm from.

Why McKinley Is a PGA Professional

Sounds like a solid plan, and I'm sure the experiences you're getting now are going to shape that. And also you're building your resume as of right now. So what made you want to be a PGA Professional in the first place?

Golf has been a part of my family since my great-grandfather and my dad's side. My dad taught it to me when I was a little kid. From what I can remember, he said I had a club, and I was swinging it. So it's always been a part of my life. I always did junior golf tournaments, and eventually, I worked for my uncle, who is the director of Steam Golf at a resort in Michigan as well, and worked for him for a summer.

And then I went to Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor and caddied there and worked outside. Eventually, in my time as a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a golf pro. So it's kind of like I'm into it.

Sounds like you're in a long line of family members that have been in this industry.

Correct. And if everything goes right, my children will be carrying on the tradition, hopefully.

How to Become a PGA Professional

Tell me about the process of becoming a PGA Professional. How does one become a PGA Professional?

So there are two ways to become a PGA first. I went to school university. There are 18 accredited PGA Golf Management universities throughout the nation. They range around the U.S. and I went to Methodist University, like I said, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. So you go through college like a normal student and do internships in the summer. And it's actually a four-and-a-half-year program, not five, because you have to do a seven-month-long internship where Methodist is.

Internships are different for different schools, but that's one way to go through. You get a bachelor's degree in some sort of business administration at Methodist. I chose marketing. And yes, I graduated with a PGA certification and a bachelor’s in marketing. The other way you can do it is called the Associate Program, and that is, if you don't go through school and do it, you have to be working at a golf course. And you have eight years to pass your PAT (Player’s Ability Test) and pass all the levels, all three levels, just like I had to do in school.

But you have to be on-your-own teachers—no classes to go through how to do all the same work, all the same videos, all the same processes, and procedures. Just, no faculty and staff that are literally dedicated to helping you succeed. So if you have any inclination that you want to be a golf pro, I highly recommend going to a school and trying it. Because if not, if you don't like it the first year, you have an easy chance of being transferred to another school, to bring over gen-ed credits.

That’s great information to know. Let's break that down quickly. I don't want to spend too much time on that. But you mentioned a PAT (Player’s Ability Test), which I know is a playing test. And then you mention the levels, which I know involve tests. But, can you just talk a little bit about that as well, about what that process might be for somebody that is going into this or is thinking about this?

Of course. So the PAT (Player’s Ability Test) is a player ability test, like you said, a PAT. And what that is, is you take the rating of a golf course, times by 2, and add 15. So let's say the rating is 70 times 2, which is 140, plus 15 equals 155 (that’s the target score to pass). You've got to play 36 holes in one day.

Yeesh, that's brutal!

True. It’s tough, but normally they have a very easy setup, about 6400 yards. Pins are nice in some of the easiest spots on the greens. Very gettable course. They don't want you to fail. And it's very different from any other kind of tournament. You're really rooting for every single person to play well. It’s very interesting because, in every tournament, there’s always that little bit in the back of your mind that you don't want anybody to play well. Because you want to play better. So, and what else? The levels.



So there's Q-Level (Qualifying Level). Technically four levels. There's Q-Level, which is the qualifying level, which is learning the history of the PGA and some of the bylaws and regulations that you go through. And that's pretty easy. That takes about a half semester to pass, and then you move into Level One. And so, within Level One, you have Golf Cart Fleet Management, Teaching, Tournament Operations, and some other things. There are five different courses and five different tests you have to take, and you have to pass each test with a 70% or higher. It doesn't matter if you get 70 to 100; it's pass or fail.

Along with those tests you have to take or not take, you have to do work experiences. And so some of those are actual teaching videos. You take the student out on the driving range and do specific drills and such filming, ensuring that you can properly do it and then. There are other things, such as tournament operations. You have to set up a tournament, and then run a little bit of a budget for the tournament for prizes and such. And then it's very cool. Your supervisors read it, and then they submit it. And then if it's not right, you get it back. Change a few things so that you normally get it past. So you have to pass all the tests, all the work experience.

You do not have to pass the Player Ability Test_ _(PAT) until the very end. You can pass all three levels first and still have a couple of years to pass your PAT. Depending on how fast you finish the levels, the only thing that matters to you if you don't pass is there's a qualifying score. Or I think it's called a qualifying score. You have to shoot a low enough score in order to be eligible to play in another PAT.

If you shoot 99 or something like that, then you are going to be suspended for 90 days or something like that.

Just to get your game into form or…?

It’s basically a wake-up call, being like it's pointless for you to play. Like go practice and get better or just stop.

Just stop playing?


That's good information to know. That’s part of the process you have to go through to become one a PGA Professional.

It’s definitely interesting. Like I said, four-and-a-half years for the school route. If you want to go with the assistant apprentice program, it can take you as little as two-and-a-half years if you are just grinding and grinding and grinding, or it can take you upwards of six years.

Okay, normally four years, then?

Yeah, about four years for the normal time. I would say this is about the same for school. So a lot of these associate guys, they went to school for something else, and then they realized, “That’s not really what I want to do. What can I do?” And then they like golf, and so they choose golf, and they love it.

It sounds like something you just go through and feel it out and see if it's for you or not.

Mmhmm. I mean, that's what you're doing.

Day in the Life

Right, so moving on from the education aspect of the PGA. What can you tell me about your everyday activities, like your daily responsibilities that you're doing?

So personally, I am in charge of basically 90% of our men's program, while our first assistant handles a majority of our ladies’ program. And like I said, I'm more on the men's side. So every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, there's a game that I run for anywhere between 12 to 24 guys. So my day consists of prepping for those types of things.

There are other things on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. We have junior clinics that are two hours long. We have anywhere from six to 18 kids in those junior clinics. So revenue-wise, it's great for the guys. For me, we get a pretty good chunk of change from doing that, and it's really solid for the pocketbook. But it's pretty draining as it can be tough to have six kids all by yourself!

Then, on top of my responsibilities for the men's program and junior golf, we also have events running at the club. So like I said, this week is our member/guest week. Last week, we were already preparing things: our tournament software, our booklet, and our scoreboards. Just everything that we need to get ready (like our tablecloths, tables for the tournament), our teams like you name it, the boxes for where you put the tees for the tournament. You name it, we're looking at it already last week. That eats a big chunk of my day.

And then not only just the fact that we have to worry about the pace of play — that can eat up a solid hour of your day. Just going out there and driving around and talking to groups and making sure people are in the right spot. Thankfully, our club has nice-ranging software, so you can track where groups are and see exactly where they are on a map, and tell you how fast they are playing. That helps cut down on some ranger time and guessing and guesstimating times and such.

That’s the thing that is crazy. You’re probably going to ask me this question, but the crazy thing about the day that makes it so wild is that I could be in the middle of doing one task, and then as I'm in the process of walking there, I get asked to do another task. And while I'm pivoting to try and go do that next task because that has more priority over the next task, I get asked to do another one! So I get three things on my plate as I'm literally just trying to complete one thing. I get two more shows than what was on my plate. And it's not just me; it's everybody that works there. So it's just that I like it. It's fun. I like to and I always have a pocketbook, so I write everything down.

I was going to mention that.

Yep. I have a pocketbook. If you want to be a good golf pro, have a pocketbook, then you don't forget things. Look at the pocketbook before you leave work every single day.

That makes complete sense because that would drive anybody crazy to try to remember three tasks. Because you're thinking in the moment, you're like, “Oh man, I forgot that one task. Was that one task again?”

Yeah. I can't remember until it's too late. And the person came up and said, “Did you do this?”

Sure, I did!”

That’s the one. And you just feel like crap. This is like, “Yeah, you were the first one that asked me the question. I couldn't remember what you asked because I had other things come up.” Those are the ones that are tough. Those are tough pills to swallow. I've taken too many of those pills to keep doing it, so learn from your mistakes.

Challenges in the Industry

No, definitely. It sounds like a learning curve. And it sounds like you've found a way to adapt to it quickly and find solutions for yourself. So that's always a good thing to do.

In terms of challenges you faced so far in your PGA Professional journey, what would those be if you had any?

Oh, that's a heavy hitter. Some of the challenges have been just working these long hours.

About how many hours?

Okay, on an average week, 60. This member guest week will probably be 80 hours, maybe even 90. It's going to be a big week. I'm all in for it. I love waking up early and doing this. I don’t like waking up for much other stuff. So it's pretty cool to have that kind of feeling in my back pocket. That’s one challenge.

The other challenges are like, there have been certain places that I've been at that really just feel like you're coasting, and there's nothing in sight in the near future—maybe not even in the near future, but like three or four years.

You are just going through the motions?

Despite not being there that long, you can see the future, like nothing is near. There's no opportunity for you to grow at that place. And you have to get out before you get stuck in the cycle. Thankfully, I got out of it, and I'm on a better path for what I think I want to do.

So that's a good thing to figure that out quicker rather than later, like in an internship or something, or to see it right away. And then you're not sucked into that kind of thing.

Correct. And so that's one thing. I'll bring it back to PGM Professional Golf Management. If you do the school route and do your internships all over the country where you always wanted to visit and to do it at all sorts of different places, do it in a resort golf course or in a private golf club. Those are the two main ones. If you want to try and do a semi-private, go ahead.

I even did an internship at SeeMore Putters. So I worked at a club manufacturer for one of my internships for the summer. They could give me 30 hours a week, so I got a side gig working at another club to make some more money.

I got to experience resort, private, resort, and golf manufacturing. For internships, the places where you can be an integral part of their operation for three months and then just say peace out without ever burning any bridges or anything. Right, it's kind of weird. It's kind of crazy. Take advantage of the opportunity you can take.

Tips for Aspiring PGA Professionals

Go work in some crazy place, like Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, or Washington. If you're from the east side of the country, go to the west side—experience something new.

Sounds like an interesting opportunity to take advantage of. Maybe go to a dream course like you're saying, if you can get that kind of internship. So like you did, it seems like you got a wide range of experiences which helped you and shaped you to see, like, “Okay, I kind of like this,” or “I don't like this kind of thing.”

Exactly, and that relates to the struggles that I was talking about in terms of that. There are certain things that I enjoyed and certain things that I didn't. Things I didn't have to struggle through are all good. It worked out in the end. It helped me understand and know what I want to do more.

That's the most important thing. You mentioned the different kinds of courses. Could you tell me the differences that you faced, working for a public course versus a private course?

So I've never worked for a, quote-unquote, public course. I worked on a resort golf course. So basically when I worked there, there were weeks we were doing 240 rounds a day, 240 swipes a day. It got monotonous, boring. And just selling, like you had 50 of the same shirts. You're selling the same shirt over and over and over again. Like I said, monotony, and it got boring for me personally. Some people enjoy that; some people like seeing new faces.

That’s why the private side for me is where I enjoy it. I like to be able to build those relationships and keep growing them to work at the same place for years. This is the first place I've gotten to work multiple seasons, and it's really cool to be able to come back to members. They know your name. They know who you are and ask you how your winter was, and you ask them how their winter was. It was great. So it's pretty cool to experience.

It sounds like a big difference between the two because obviously, as you said: resort, ‘cause just maybe you'll see the same person maybe once or maybe never again. It's likely that you won't see them again. So like you were saying, the relationship-building part is a pretty cool aspect on the private side, it sounds like for you, and something that you value a lot.

Doing the Little Things

Correct, that's something that for me personally, I like it. I love to be able to be with the members. At the end of the day, the golf industry, it’s a service industry. It may sound cheesy, but with smiles and seeing people, you recognize the fact that the little things that you do for them are important. You can recognize what they do on a daily basis. Putting a water in their golf cart, getting them an extra wet towel because they like a wet towel in their cart, or putting five extra tees in their cubby. Little things like that I pick up on and that I like to do.

You like the intricacies and everything, which is a cool thing you touched on earlier with tournament operations in what you take care of and everything. I think if you have an eye for that, it's something you're passionate about and doesn't really feel like work. You're going the extra mile to make sure everybody's good around you.

Correct. I've said this to many people that I've talked to about my job. I work six days a week and a lot of people think that's crazy. And I have Monday off.

You could work Sunday?

I could work seven days, but I have my day off. So, I work Saturday and Sunday. I don’t have a weekend, that's fine for me. I've never had a weekend. Honestly, for all the internships that I've done and worked…

—You have been conditioned.

It’s crazy. I never celebrated the 4th of July. I really think that's one of the best holidays in the whole world and I haven't celebrated it in ten years.

So, is this year the year or not?

This isn't the year, no.

Maybe another ten years?

I'll have to be a head pro by then. As I said, I work six days a week, and probably it's like five, five to six days a week that I’m excited about going to work. There's going to be the occasional off day. Everybody has it. I'm not going to say I don't, but for the most part, I absolutely love going to work every day.

The Benefits

I can tell from the way you're talking about this so far that you do have a passion for this. It's obvious the way you're talking about this. Like even the little things you enjoy doing. So I'm curious, then. What are some of the benefits of being a PGA Professional?

For a basic starting point for working at a high-end level club. If you want to be able to teach lessons, for the most part, there are going to be certain places that you can. For the most part, you're going to have to be PGA-certified to be able to teach lessons. Some of the cool benefits here are being able to go to any PGA Tour event with your PGA card to show it at the gate and you can go to Masters and U.S. Open. It’s really cool. That's one of the perks. You can get pretty good discounts on Rolex watches, if you want to get one of those, rental cars, and stuff like that.

One thing for me is that I'm on staff for Titleist. So what that means for me is Titleist is going to basically sponsor me, and I'm going to promote Titleist to my members. I want them to buy Titleist since I play it and I'm going to promote it. I get a set of clubs and golf balls. I can get FootJoy since they are the same company for very cheap discounts. So they want me to wear that stuff more. And I mean, other discounts; I get to buy pretty much any item that I want for way cheaper than what the member or anybody else is going to pay for it. So that's nice. Those are a few perks of being a PGA member.

Who Pays for the PGA Membership

That makes sense because you're basically doing advertising for them, and then you're also selling their products. It makes complete sense in that aspect. Tell me about the PGA membership for a professional. Is it something you have to pay for or does the course pay for the membership?

So it depends on the course. Certain courses will pay for it, but certain courses won’t. If you do a north/south thing (e.g., work six months in Rhode Island and the other six months in Florida). Certain places want the southern club to pay half of it, and the northern club to pay the other half. It's very club-dependent, but the vast majority of clubs take care of at least half of the PGA Professional dues, if not all.

Retaining PGA Membership

Okay. That makes sense. And what are the requirements to retain your membership from year to year?

So you have to get these things called MSRP points and that can be as easy as going to a local PGA show. So with a North Carolina PGA show or a New England PGA show or something like that, you can get MSRP points for being there and such. There are certain seminar videos that you can watch for a certain amount of points and stuff, so. At the moment, I don't have very much that I have to do. I believe once you get farther along, there's more and more you have to do. So I don't really know the penalty if you don't do it.

It doesn't seem like you've faced that problem before.

No, I haven’t. It's like that hopefully is never going to be a problem that I need to ever deal with. So it shouldn't be.

This is just out of curiosity. If you played tournaments and stuff that are accredited by the PGA, will you get points for that or how does that work?

Little Time for Golfing

I think you do, but there are also season-long points standings that you can get in if you play in all of them. Unfortunately, with my schedule, I'm a little busy playing in a lot of those, working 60 hours a week.

I like competitive golf. I love playing little matches when I go play with people, but not on a competitive scale. Maybe a pro-am here or there, but nothing crazy.

Sure, something casual. Something you can get a little competitive edge, but also have fun at the same time.

Correct, man. I'm also not one of those guys. If I'm playing with these interns that we got at the club, I want to tip it out (play from the back tees). But sure, if I'm just going out to play with some members and stuff, I'm not going to tip it out while they're playing the front tees. I'm going to hit play, not as a forward, but like they're playing the tournament. I'll play the tournament tees with them, which is like a box and a half forward.

That makes sense. I feel like it's almost a courtesy thing at that point because it's almost like you're playing by yourself at times.

Correct, exactly, and it's awkward waiting on the tee and stuff for that, too. Plus, they love looking at how much farther I can drive the ball.

I literally had one member checking my drives the whole entire round. He had me averaging 303.

That's good. That's good.

That’s not too shabby!

No, not too bad for somebody who doesn't get to tee it up as often.

Honestly. So obviously this week, I'm not really going to get to play too much golf, but lately, the shop's been closing at six, and it's daylight for a little bit. And all these interns want to play golf, and they're always asking me. I'm like, “Sure, why not?” So I’ll get in a bunch of emergency 9s in 9-hole rounds, and it's been great. Not a lot of people get to do that. I do know quite a few that do, but a lot of guys get tired and don't want to go. So, I'm actually thankful for these intern kids and having them pull me out there.

For sure, it sounds like something that can help your game.


Those emergency 9s sound like they are vitamin C for those 300-yard drives.

Exactly, we'll go with that.

Teaching Golf Lessons

I love it. What can you tell me about shifting gears from the playing side? What can you tell me about the lesson side? You told me a little bit about junior clinics. What kind of teaching do you do besides junior clinics?

So we also do women's clinics at the club. That'll be anywhere from 6 to 18ish ladies, and we'll have three instructors. If it's a small group, we can get a lot more focused and one-on-one attention. If it's a bigger group, we're doing a lot more group-type teaching. That's what the ladies’ clinics are like. We’re focused more on the basics, the fundamentals, grip, posture, stance, and how to turn your shoulder all the way through instead of just using your arms and picking the club up. So that sort of stuff.

Then I also teach private lessons on the side. I typically have been at the moment. I have only been a PGA member for two years, so I haven't been able to teach as many lessons as I’d want, but I have a lot of junior lessons. Kids that want to come and see me one-on-one on the side, and I'll help them. We work on certain things. It’s similar to a lot of what the ladies are doing. I mean, the grip, the posture, the stance. Really, the main thing with the juniors is I just want them to do it the same way every single time because a lot of times they have a different grip every time or their feet are always weird. So, I try to get things set up so I can get them the proper fundamentals. I'll put alignment sticks on the ground, so they can basically stand in the spot every single time. And it's almost a game to get them in there, so it's fun and it's helpful at the same time.

That sounds like it's something where you just build it. I'm going to sound repetitive here, but build the building blocks for them to get that feeling, so they don't start building bad habits or anything.

Correct. That's 100% true. But I've also given lessons to adults before, and for one thing that I like to do, one of my methods, I guess you can say, is I like to relate the golf swing to other sports, such as tennis. A lot of people that I teach play tennis, so having them hit a backhand is a similar motion. Not the same exact motion, but a similar enough motion to where I can get them to think the same way as hitting that.

Baseball is probably my favorite because I just say it feels like you're picking the ball right off the plate. Right, so it's the same similar motion that gets a little different, the bat that is a little different; but is it really that much different? You know, you're stepping with a baseball bat, but still doing the same turning motion, the same arm and shoulder. That’s something that I think about.

It's a fair way to look at it in terms of other sports. That’s an interesting perspective. Do you have a method of teaching that you follow or something that you've adopted?

I don't have a specific person or teacher that I've adopted per se, so I just watch a lot of YouTube videos. I watch my teaching instructor at Shelter Harbor. He's unbelievable. Just a few guys on tour. So I shadow a few of his lessons and talk to him all the time, get tips and tidbits from him. It’s great. His name is Michael Robinson

Any tour pros to name off?

Richy Werenski PGA Tour Winner.

McKinley’s Future Goals

Very good. So, shifting gears again, what are your future goals in this industry? Where would you like to see yourself?

So within the next few years—two or three—I would like to see myself being a first assistant. I don't know, maybe here if the timing works out correctly or if there is a new club somewhere else, like you said, in the northeast or midwest. So, and then after that, the director of golf would be ideal for me. Hopefully, he'll just stay in it forever.

Okay. It sounds like you are very passionate about it and in the right place. What are the stepping stones to getting to those places, like you were saying, the director of golf or head professional?

It really just comes down to experience and connections, connections, connections, connections, connections, connections. I can't stress that enough. Knowing somebody, having somebody out for you. Having people on your side is a very powerful thing in the golf industry if you have somebody that’s well-connected. So, connections.

It's a lot about networking!

Having a big network, being able to be social, taking advantage of these, like you said, section events. You go to them to create connections with people instead of just playing and leaving.

It's almost like a spy at that point.

Correct, exactly.

It doesn't seem like you have a problem reaching out to other people and building those connections. As you mentioned before, that relationship building is probably one of your top priorities, you would say?

I wouldn't say it is necessarily a top priority. Obviously, day-to-day operations and tournaments and stuff like those are the top priorities. But, when the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it when you can.

The 100-Day War

And just a couple more questions here. Have you faced burnout during this time or anything? Because you've, you've been telling me sometimes you work 70 hours a week, 80-hour weeks, you're working six days a week. Maybe you have been conditioned to this, but how have you felt during the time that you've been doing it overall?

So we call it the 100-Day War.

Okay. I like the sounds of this.

Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Okay. It's the 100-Day War. It might be Labor Day. I can't remember which one. Whatever, it’s the war right now. So we're in the middle of the war, and we're in one of our biggest battles at the moment, which is our member guest. So it's big, long days, but as I said, we were preparing for this tournament last week. We actually were preparing for this tournament two months ago. We couldn't get to all the big important stuff that we're doing now, but we were getting names, getting the gifts, getting the trophies, getting this ready to go for the tournament that needed time.

So it's not like it's just a one-week production, here we go. Because it's not just golf that is running this. We got food and beverages. We got tournament scoring. We got tons of stuff. We got rental carts (golf carts) coming in because we don't have enough golf carts for the number of people that we have, so it's just crazy. It's going to be a great week, but we've prepared for it so well that I feel like it's a lot of hours. But we're so well-prepared, that it's not as bad. But don't get me wrong, those Mondays are nice to have!

Taking one day off a week is probably pretty healthy for yourself because you need some downtime, I think. All this sounds pretty gratifying for you when a tournament or an event goes successfully for you. I'm sure that's probably one of the best feelings for you now.

It definitely is. Tournament operations is probably my favorite part of the industry. Just exactly like you said: being able to put in the time, the preparation, to be a part of it, to watch it through, to help it succeed. And if you need to adapt on the fly because you've thought of that problem arising and being ready for it, or even not being ready for a problem or being able to adapt to it.

Still making it go off smoothly and having nobody know except for you guys. It's pretty fun because there are so many of those times where it's like covert op missions, where you really messed up, and you're running and scrambling and it's like nobody notices. Nobody notices, nobody notices. And then as you're fixing it and somebody notices, and it's like, “It’s being fixed right now, guys.” It's funny. It's a mad dash, but it's fun.

I'm sure it's one of those things where at the moment, you're almost panicking, and then you look back at it, later on, and you just laugh at it.

Exactly. No, that's exactly how it is—like everything doesn't feel as smooth as it is. Everything doesn't feel as smooth when this is happening as it does when you're looking back at it. It feels like chaos.

Important Things to Know

I can relate to that as well. What kinds of tips would you give to somebody who is currently looking or is in the process of becoming a PGA Professional? Is it a livable salary? What things should they know going in?

Starting off is not going to be super easy or mean. It's going to be hard. You're probably going to be right around 30 or 35. Maybe 40, if you're lucky when you first get into it. Well, it depends. There are certain places, like when I was in North Carolina, I was working 45 hours and I was on a salary for 40 grand. So it's not bad.

There are certain places that are going to be more and certain places that are going to be less. I think the places that are more going to be expecting more of you, the experience might be better, so I don't know, take a risk. Right now, places are looking for people, so you might not be 100% perfectly qualified for the job. But if you want to put the time and effort in, get there. Also, just because you're out of school, don't stop learning. You can't stop learning.

That’s life advice. I like it!

That’s just life advice, though. Especially with the golf swing, there are so many new things coming out and new teachers, new weird philosophies, and stuff. You're just trying to take little tidbits from every single thing and trying to understand and adopt them. Because at the end of the day, a lesson isn’t just a lesson for the students. It’s a lesson for you to look back at it and see what you did wrong and see what you need to do better next time.

You know, that makes sense. I think the teachers that have that same kind of mindset as yourself are always going to keep growing and becoming better at what you do because it's almost like you're giving yourself a self-assessment. Not only for the student—like evaluating where they're at with their game. But you're also evaluating where you were at, maybe at that time, compared to three months later or something.

So, I think that's an important checkpoint for anybody, not only in golf but to keep growing at what you're doing.

Correct. I agree.

Wow! Okay. It sounds like you're definitely in the right place. I appreciate all this information that you have provided us. There is a lot of information. I'm sure at least one person, if not many people, will benefit from what you told us today.

Yeah. I appreciate it, and thanks for having me here.

Go Blue!

Big Michigan fan, eh?

Big Michigan Wolverines, Go Blue! The Lions are going to go 500 this year.

I like the confidence; we gotta rep the home state.

Yes, sir. I love it.

Thank you, Zach. I appreciate everything. I'm Andrew Howard, golf journalist with…

Zach McKinley from Chelsea, Michigan PGA Professional.

This interview with Zachary J. Mckinley was an insightful one that aspiring PGA professionals can learn from as well as people already working in the industry. He shares exactly what it is like to be a PGA professional. Feel free to reach out to me or to Zach for questions.

Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
Andrew Howard
Golf Expert
My life has been involved in the golf industry since a young age when I started caddying when I was 13 years old. I love this game and want other people to love it more! I caddied for 8 years and worked in a professional environment selling equipment for 3 years. I'm also a golf journalist writing articles regularly, be sure to follow my Instagram to stay up to date with the latest golf news! Now I am a PGA Level 1 associate and currently teaching golf to obtain my PGA membership!!
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Written by:
Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
Andrew Howard
Golf Expert
My life has been involved in the golf industry since a young age when I started caddying when I was 13 years old. I love this game and want other people to love it more! I caddied for 8 years and worked in a professional environment selling equipment for 3 years. I'm also a golf journalist writing articles regularly, be sure to follow my Instagram to stay up to date with the latest golf news! Now I am a PGA Level 1 associate and currently teaching golf to obtain my PGA membership!!

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