Meet the PGA pro: Roe Park Resort’s Michael McCrudden

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu December 20, 2017 10:26 Updated

The resident PGA professional explains how the club has got more women and children playing the game, and he outlines the technology he uses that improves golfers’ games

Please can you give a brief description of your background?

I began my PGA training in 2006 at Royal Portrush Golf Club under the tutelage of head professional Gary McNeill. Royal Portrush was a fantastic club to work at, being one of the world’s premier golf destinations and the only course outside of England and Scotland to host the Open Championship in 1951, and soon to return in 2019. It provided me with some excellent opportunities, such as meeting and playing with some of the world’s top tour professionals, looking after a large club membership, and setting up a junior coaching company called LearnGolfNI which took golf into local schools and the community.

After studying English and film at Manchester Metropilitan University, I was equipped with some key skills that helped me communicate clearly and concisely, which has been excellent for my golf coaching and custom fitting.

Under the watchful eye of Gary McNeill and secretary manager Wilma Erskine, I was able to progress in my career, becoming head professional at Roe Park Resort and Golf Club in 2013.

One of my career highlights was witnessing my brother Patrick McCrudden winning one of Ireland’s most prestigious events, the North of Ireland Amateur Championship, we had worked hard on his golf swing in the run up to the tournament.

Sounds like golf runs in your family! Does it?

I always feel extremely lucky to have grown up in a ‘golfing family’. One of three brothers, we started our golf at Whitehead Golf Club under the watchful eye of PGA professional Colin Farr, and then due to a move of location played the remainder of our junior golf at Royal Portrush Golf Club. My father Gary was a two handicapper and even now manages to play off an eight handicap, and it is definitely my dad’s influence that got myself and my brothers all into the game; we have all stuck with golf. I went down the PGA professional route, my brother Patrick went on a golf scholarship to Denver University in the USA and my youngest brother Richard plays off a mean two handicap and recently featured on the championship winning Royal Portrush Senior Cup team. Even our mum Jan got involved in golf, I think her idea was ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.

Roe Park Resort was recently voted ‘Golf Resort of the Year’ by Ireland Golf Tour Operators Association (IGTOA). What did it do to be awarded this?

The Roe Park Resort contracted golf course architect Marc Westenberg to renovate holes 16, 17 and 18. The final three greens were reconstructed to improve play and create a more challenging finish to the course. The redevelopment also included a multi-tier finish to surrounding bunkers and introduced additional bunkers throughout the fairways to give players a more competitive game. All bunkers now use Sportsbond to ensure consistency and drainage. Some fairways were also realigned and the final touch was to redevelop the par three 6th rising through the hotel grounds.

A lot of clubs are setting up beginner academies for people new to the game. Does Roe Park have something similar in place? What are you currently doing to encourage juniors to take up the sport?

Roe Park is now home to a growing junior golf academy and beginner academy. Between the resort, golf club and PGA professional, pathways are being established to bring golfers of any ability into golf at Roe Park Resort. Making golf more accessible and welcoming are key priniciples in this strategy, and with having world class facilites such as the driving range, and three hole academy course, we are well positioned for anyone interested in getting started in the game and for those looking to improve.

The most successful example of this has been the Confederation of Golf in Ireland’s ‘Get into Ladies Golf’ programme, which saw us take 32 ladies for a six week coaching programme, and this led to 19 ladies joining our ladies’ section. This would not be possible without help from our golf club committees, volunteering and advice from governing bodies such as the PGA and the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.

What technology are you currently using to help run the day to day operations of the pro shop at Roe Park? Are there any plans for investment?

The simplest solutions are often the best for us – we use a shared online calendar and rota to keep all staff on the same page for the ground level day to day operations. Premier EPOS is essential to monitor stock levels and margin, and weekly reports are completed to ensure we are as efficient as possible. Evernote and Dropbox are two crucial apps that are used multiple times a day for all golf shop business.

FlightScope Launch Monitor and V1 video software allow us to give coaching students a great all-round experience. I feel that these are now almost the industry standard in terms of what students expect when they come for a golf lesson. However, it is very important to point out that they are only tools, and it’s up to the PGA professional to interpret the data.

We’re currently setting up an additional GC2 simulator room for use by members and guests which is situated right in the golf shop, and will add a very important facility for use over the winter or bad weather periods.

BRS Golf and GolfNow have been excellent additional revenue generators – using the GolfNow platform has allowed us to maximise our tee time usage particularly at quiet times, and with dynamic pricing which we can manage in store, it’s a great way to reach customers and bring them to the resort.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face in your role? How do you overcome these and what advice would you give to other assistant pros who are looking to step up and take on more responsibility?

Time management. There’s 168 hours in a week and I’m a firm believer that you should be able to do your job within a designated number of hours. So many people rush from one crisis to another, fighting fires all day long, when maybe just sitting down for 15 minutes a day with a coffee and clearing your head and mapping out your day / week would be a massive help. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ system, and also Tim Ferris’s ‘Four Hour Week’, and with a young family and commitments outside of work I have to be able to manage my time and give my staff and my customers the best experience possible.

Cashflow. Watch your numbers every day. It’s very easy to overstock and be a ‘busy fool’, something I have been guilty of when I first started. Take a step back, look at what works within the store, and concentrate on it. Keep it small and tight in terms of stock. A big influence for me here has been ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. You must know your numbers inside out

You must know your margins, stock turn and balance sheets like the back of your hand. Set up an accounting system with the help of a good accountant, and use it routinely.

Join a buying group like TGI – this has been crucial for me, allowing me to gain industry insights and feel connected to other PGA professionals.

Take your opportunities. Move as much sideways in your job as you can. While I was at Royal Portrush, my employing professional Gary McNeill was always fantastic at allowing me to focus on junior development and local outreach, which led to setting up LearnGolfNI. Showing your pro that you are willing to work on custom fitting, club repairs and social media is also essential. No one is going to do it for you, and I would highly recommend laying out a proposal, costing it and presenting it to your pro, rather than just asking ‘can I do this?” Make it easy for them to say yes.

Always learn. Podcasts – I spend 60 minutes a day travelling in the car, and I now use it to educate myself – podcasts such as Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan, Optimal Finance Daily, Jocko Willink. Shows like this have, to be honest, changed my life, I now am fitter, more educated and more motivated than I ever have been as a result. As former Navy Seal commander Jocko would say, ‘you must own everything in your world, there is no one else to blame’. This idea of ‘extreme ownership’ is how I run my business. I let my staff take ownership of projects, and see them through from start to finish – this certainly creates some fantastic teachable moments, but always gets them thinking independently, and a great example of this is my former assistant professional David Allen who is now the head professional at Newtonstewart Golf Club.

CPD courses. These are critical for your development as a PGA professional. It’s too easy to do your PGA training and think, ‘ahh that’s it’. But if you sit still the world goes past you, and with the advances in technology and customer expectations, you have to stay sharp. Social media is amazing for staying in tune with developments in coaching and business, and I’m a big fan of guys like Mark Crossfield and Rick Shields who have got ahead of the curve, found a niche market and capitalised on it.

Ask questions, travel. I’ve been very lucky to have travelled to south east Asia, the USA, and even to the Himalayas. My wife Tara and I even went to Vietnam and Cambodia backpacking on our honeymoon. Go see the world, see what happens in other cultures, be humble and realise how privileged we are to be doing such an amazing job. It’s so important to step outside the box and be able to see things from a completely different perspective.

You stock a wide variety of brands in your pro shop. How do you ensure you are maximising revenue and stocking products that the consumer wants?

Weekly stock taking – pick an area or brand, get a staff member to count it, double check it.

Measure stock turn – such an important figure, and I’m learning how to improve this all the time.

Listen to your customers – and once you have listened, act on it if required and let them know you have acted on it. For an industry who sell large value items, clubs, electric trolleys and so on, it amazes me how poorly we follow up with customers, sometimes just a call asking is everything good with the purchase a month later can guarantee you a customer for life.

Northern Ireland has become a golfer’s destination of choice in recent years. What factors do you feel have contributed to this? And what does the future hold for golf in the country?

The peace process has been crucial. Specifically for golf, PGA professionals have been working at grass roots levels, a lot of the time on their own initative.

There’s also been the success of Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy in major championships, plus our own tourism strategy.

The ‘spill down’ effect of success of clubs like Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and Portstewart Golf Club, which have secured the Walker Cup, Irish Opens and the big one, the 2019 Open Championship, has also been important.

The future is uncertain; there will be a great legacy and boost from the Open Championship in 2019 and it is up to individual clubs to maximise the effect that this will have on their numbers, participation levels and so on. However, golf is always struggling in Northern Ireland to compete with other sports, whether it be football, GAA, rugby or cycling. Cost and time are well known issues, and hopefully these can be addressed by the governing bodies and the sport will return to rude health.

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu December 20, 2017 10:26 Updated
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