Meet the PGA professional: Carl Bianco

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 28, 2019 11:43

The head pro at Woking Golf Club in Surrey for the last 20 years talks about the challenges involved in managing a successful shop while also teaching the game and the technology he utilises.

What daily challenges do you face in running a pro shop and teaching?

The biggest challenge in running our shop is probably much the same as every club pro – trying to keep lots of plates spinning at the same time. Shop customers provide a constant and immediate demand on your time, but simultaneously phone calls must be taken, emails responded to and a profitable business managed; often with limited resources.

Teaching brings a different set of challenges, but I find on the whole these are more predictable, and through knowledge and experience are more easily overcome. Our aim is to find out in detail what our customer wants from their lesson and then deliver the content in easy-to-understand language that can be implemented immediately with quantifiable results.

There is a constant flow of new golf products – how do you manage your stock to serve the needs of your members and visitors?

We use a combination of the Crossover XPoS system and intuition to control our stock. With frequent stock-takes our data remains accurate and the sales analysis tells us what sells and what doesn’t. All our buying is based on previous sales data, so we keep things pretty tight with high stock-turns and reduced stock-holding.

If we are unsure about the suitability of a new product for our clientele, then I will run a survey past the membership to get a feel for the level of interest.

How do you manage your day?

We operate the shop diary through Google Calendar, which every member of staff has constant access to on their phones. I will set aside time slots for banking, admin and coaching, but ultimately the customer is king and many times the best laid plans go up in smoke and you do what you have to do. I think that is one of the elements that make our job so interesting and varied (as well as occasionally frustrating and exhausting!)

What are you doing to support junior golf and introduce kids to the sport?

This is a difficult one for us at Woking. The club is very private and only children of members are encouraged to join.

Also, because of the long carries off the tees over heather and the speed of play (we are predominantly a two-ball course), the course is not the easiest environment to learn the game.

As a result, we focus our attention on the slightly older kids who have learned the game elsewhere normally. They can join the club from the age of 12, and then we provide junior academy coaching in all the school holidays, which is heavily subsidised by the club.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

Yes, this is a definite area of growth for us. Our ladies’ section is very proactive, and in conjunction with them we run a ladies’ academy that is designed to break down the barriers to full membership. Each academy golfer gets six group lessons and 12 individual lessons and can also play on the course with the existing lady members who are very keen to volunteer their time. It works well.

Do you have any programmes in place such as academy membership to make it easier to introduce beginners to the game?

This is limited to the ladies’ section at present. We have a small club membership due to the two-ball playing format and a waiting list for potential male members, so there is no real need for a beginners’ academy as a recruitment tool.

A lot of PGA pros are having to be a step ahead of their competitors in their offerings and technology – what additional added value services do you provide?

We have a large state-of-the-art studio offering GC Quad and SAM PuttLab technology that is primarily used for coaching and club fitting, but members and their guests can also book it for practice sessions and for golf simulation.

We have found that as members have become more aware of their impact criteria after lessons on the GC Quad, they want the same information during their practice – so this has proved popular.

On a personal level, I sit on two club committees where I advise on a range of issues both on and off the course.

When did you join the TGI Golf Partnership and what was it about it that attracted you?

I joined TGI in 2009 and was attracted initially by the ethos of the company. Every partner being an equal shareholder and the partners wholly owning the company.

I also liked the idea that I was still an independent retailer with no products or advertising imposed on me from above.

I would be lying if I said the annual financial return from the profits of the business didn’t look appealing as well!

Has TGI Golf been of benefit to you as a PGA professional?

Undoubtedly. From the classy and unique newsletter facility to the visits from the highly knowledgeable retail consultants, the amazing annual Team Challenge in Turkey and the helpful and professional staff at HQ, the whole experience has been beneficial.

What year did you turn professional and what have been your career highlights, both playing and employment?

I turned pro in 1993 at the age of 25 after having a previous career in the Armed Forces. Playing for my living was never a realistic aspiration as I had set my heart on becoming the club pro at a prestigious private members’ club. I did however record one win as an assistant, but my winnings didn’t even fill my petrol tank!

I still retain my love of the game and really enjoy playing beautiful courses (especially links) with my members and friends.

My appointment as head professional at Woking remains a career highlight as it was the ultimate justification of my career change – and it hasn’t disappointed. I love going in to work every day and I have to pinch myself on how lucky I have been to make my hobby into my profession.

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 28, 2019 11:43
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