Meet the PGA pro: Paul Stevenson

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 16, 2020 13:27

The head professional at Portadown Golf Club in Northern Ireland talks about the award he has just won for his pro shop, the changes in the industry since he started working at the club in 1987 and the technology he uses to teach the game to more people.

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

Stock is getting more expensive so to hold a lot of stock means a having a lot of money tied up, so it’s a real challenge to ensure you buy right and keep stock turning. But it’s a challenge that you relish and you keep striving to move forward.

I like to have a pro shop with a lot of choice so it is a real challenge to make sure you keep on top of that.

I’m lucky enough to have a swing studio within the shop itself so it makes it very easy to keep on top of both teaching and retail as I don’t have to physically leave the pro Shop for lessons / custom fitting and so on.

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

I’ve been the pro at Portadown for 33 years so I’m fortunate that I have been around for a long time and have a good idea what the customer base likes.

I also pay close attention to industry stats, so I’ve seen from Crossover that there are six companies that dominate 80 per cent of the market, so they are going to drive most of what you’re selling.

There’s then a 20 per cent gap to fill with products that you have to filter yourself.

I do this using the experience and knowledge of my customer base that I have built up over the years – there are not many benefits to getting older, but that is certainly one!

Paul receiving the Pro Shop of the Year award from TGI retail consultant Ricky Gray

How do you manage your day?

Honestly, the golf club is so busy from April to September with a competition on every day, so during that period your day is pretty much mapped out for you managing the start sheet and getting people out. I tend to have a couple of hours teaching in the afternoon.

I have the trusty hard copy Titleist / FootJoy diary on the desk so I can always see it. You get into a routine with the competitions and it just flows.

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

We started running a Fun Golf promotion, which is a nine-hole competition from April to September encouraging families that don’t play golf to come along and have a game. We offer novelty prizes and it gives them a good taster and has brought a few new members on board.

Are you trying to attract more women to golf?

We have had a great drive in attracting more women over recent years and we have more than doubled our lady membership over the last three.

We started running the ‘Ladies Get Into Golf’ programme, which a few clubs have been running.

Those who sign up receive four weeks of lessons, then go through a period of another four weeks where they play with current lady members to integrate them into the club. Then in the final week they can opt into a membership package for the year at a discounted rate.

It’s been a huge success, the new members are all enthusiastic and have reinvigorated the lady members we had so it’s a very vibrant section of the club.

It has helped in the pro shop too; new customers who are all excited to get into golf and get the gear so the ladies products have sold well. New members means new customers, which means more sales.

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?

I have the swing studio in the shop which is a great benefit with a GOLFZON simulator and part of the swing studio is a fitting centre, so have all the latest golf fitting kit from Mizuno, Cobra, PING, Callaway, Titleist and TaylorMade.

I sell membership to the simulator so for £50 a year members can come in and hit balls whenever they want if it’s not being used.

This has been pretty good with about 25 members of the studio, which brings in a nice bit of revenue that you wouldn’t usually get.

We also have as many fitting days as we can from the big brands. These days generate a great bit of revenue for you, the customer gets that added value of feeling like a star for the day too.

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

I joined in 1989 when Kevan Whitson came over from Scotland and became head PGA professional at Royal County Down. He was, and still is, part of TGI Golf and he mentioned it to me and I thought it sounded like a great idea to be involved with your fellow PGA pros. Two heads are better than one and it really felt that was the right thing to do at the time and I haven’t looked back since.

I was on the board of directors for five or six years in the 90s and have seen how the group has evolved so much. It has become far more professional, as the job of a PGA pro has. The job has changed so much over the years and TGI Golf has evolved with the role, it is great to be a part of, you genuinely couldn’t do this job as well as we do if you didn’t have TGI.

The recent TGI Golf Business Conference is a prime of example of how it has evolved, with some high quality speakers. The knowledge you gain from the event is awesome.

Portadown Golf Club PGA pro Paul Stevenson (left), at last month’s TGI Golf Business Conference at Trump Turnberry, where he won the Pro Shop of the Year award, with Paul McGinley

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

Everything that it does for you is of benefit. The fact that you are part of a company that you own, not just a number. We have shares in the business and a dedicated retail consultant who visits you in store, as well as the back up from the team at head office; everyone there works hard on your behalf to make you better at your job.

Being a TGI Golf partner also adds credibility to you as a PGA professional. As soon as brands see you are a partner they take you more seriously as an independent retailer.


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

I turned professional in 1983 – the same year I was Ulster Boys champion.

Getting the job at Portadown at the tender age of 20 was an immensely proud moment for me, and I believe I was one of the youngest ever PGA head professionals at the time.

I was recently awarded Pro Shop of the Year at the TGI Golf awards, which was an incredibly proud moment and certainly a career highlight.

From a playing point of view I won my first ever pro-am in 1985 at Bangor GC, which was the home club of David Feherty and David Jones, so it was a real thrill to beat them.

I played in the regional events for 25 years and won 13 times. I was also runner up to Darren Clarke in the 1992 Ulster PGA, which was his first event as a professional.

Another highlight includes winning the Irish Assistants Championship three years running. This gave me entry to the Irish Championship and they would always put the youngsters out with the big stars, so I got to play with the likes of Des Smyth, Eamonn Darcy and Christy O’Connor Jnr, which was a real thrill for me as a teenager.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 16, 2020 13:27
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