Ferris State University’s Professional Golf Management program has maintained a perfect placement rate since it originated in 1975, giving more than 1,700 students a head-start to their professional careers.
Aaron Waltz, PGM coordinator said, “a strict standard is essential for student success when they are at Ferris.” The Ferris program was the first of its kind sanctioned by the Professional Golf Association, followed by 18 other sanctioned PGM programs in the U.S.
Ferris students must have a minimum of an eight handicap and a 2.5 grade point average to enter the four-and-a-half year program and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. Waltz said the PGA has allowed other PGM programs to have a handicap of 12, but Ferris will only accept an eight or better.
“It’s the long-established history and success that we have produced the best PGA graduates in history. Our graduates’ success speaks to that. In addition, our faculty and staff really embrace our program and help make our students successful,” Waltz said. “We have a very hands-on staff here that really cares about students. They aren’t a number at Ferris. They are a face. We try to make their career goals come true.”
He noted that alumni are a key factor in helping with the job placement rate. With more than 27,000 PGA members, Waltz said 1,000-plus members are Ferris graduates.
“This is a great segment to have and obviously continues to grow as we graduate more students,” Waltz said.
The program consists of 240 students, all of whom are expected to complete five semesters (16 to 20 months) of internships prior to graduation as part of a cooperative education program. This requirement has taken students throughout the globe to work at public golf courses, resorts, country clubs and with golf industry partners.
Senior Ian Suszko is interning at the Classic Club in Palm Desert, Calif., where he focuses on merchandising within the golf shop.
“I’ve learned more in five semesters of internships than I ever have in the classroom. While on an internship you learn from the best PGA professionals in the industry and they provide excellent mentorship on how to become an outstanding professional,” said Suszko, of Vermilion, Ohio. “I bet employers notice if someone has gone on 18 months of internships.”
During his previous internship at the Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., Suszko worked as an assistant golf professional under Mike Summa, a Ferris PGM graduate from the 1980s now working as the club’s director of golf. Suszko said Summa was the best mentor he’s ever had.
Francis Colon, of Lakeview, previously attended the University of Michigan and worked as a consultant before deciding to enter the Ferris PGM program.
“I wanted to get into the golf industry and this program made the most sense,” Colon said. “When you go into the workforce with a degree and three different internship experiences over five semesters, you have the opportunity to create an outstanding professional network in the golf business.”
Colon is interning with TrackMan as the golf equipment company’s northeast U.S. regional representative for sales. He already has been offered a full-time position with the company, whose vice president of sales and business development is 1994 PGM alumnus Matt Frelich, after he graduates in December.
“Internships are real-world experience. It makes the actual education experience more relevant,” Colon said. “If you apply yourself to the internships, classroom work is more meaningful and easier.”
PGM prepares students in the operation of a golf shop, golf course maintenance, public relations, teaching, rules of golf, club repair and planning golf events. The program is designed to further develop a student’s golf skills, as well as teach business tactics and marketing plans to enhance their golf management expertise.
“The most exciting thing is the daily interaction with the students. They come from all over Michigan and different parts of the country,” Waltz said. “It’s exciting to help make their professional dreams come true and help them land internships that get them moving toward their ultimate career goal.”
PGM students are also required to become a member of PGA’s Professional Golf Management program, which is administered on campus.