PGA Golf Management Select Alumni Profiles
Alana Swain ’10
Director of Instruction, Atlantic Golf Club, Bridgehampton, N.Y.
Choosing a school can be a daunting task. Thankfully, my decision to attend Methodist University was easy. Being from Chicago, my main priority was finding a school where I could play golf competitively all year round. I wanted to find a program where I could set goals and continue to improve my game. During my visit, I met the other girls on the team and quickly realized that playing golf at Methodist was about playing for something bigger than myself, with a team of best friends that were like family. At the time, I had never heard of a PGM program, but I loved the idea of being able to create a career around my passion. After one visit to Methodist University I knew it was the perfect school for me.
My fondest memory of my time at Methodist was winning a National Championship my senior year. The day I decided to attend Methodist University, I set a goal to be a part of a National Championship team and continue the legacy created by all the women before me. It took four years to get my game to a level where I could confidently compete, contribute and contend. In those four years I learned what it means to work hard, overcome defeat, and be a part of a team. Holding the NCAA trophy was one of the proudest moments of my life.
One valuable lesson I learned at Methodist was to never be afraid to ask for help. Halfway through my junior year was the pinnacle moment when my passion for teaching golf was realized. I will never forget walking into Mr. Hogge’s office and telling him that I wanted to be a prominent teacher in the business, but had no idea where to start or what to do. He quietly walked over to his library, handed me “On Learning Golf” by Percy Boomer, and told me to start reading. Week after week, I would borrow a new book as we discussed what I learned from the old one. He inspired me by sharing the successes of past alumni in my chosen field, and encouraged me to observe lessons and share ideas. Mr. Hogge taught me what it takes to be a great teacher, and I have followed his advice every day of my professional career. Asking for help can be intimidating, but I learned that people are willing to give you the answers if you are willing to ask for them.
I currently spend my winters as a Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School in Miami, Florida. During the summer months I am a teaching professional at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, New York.
At Methodist University you have access to every resource you need to be successful. My advice is to explore all of those resources. Take advantage of the staff’s constant support, the ability to use the best technology available, the internship experiences, and the other passionate, like-minded students around you. When you take advantage of all Methodist has to offer, you have an opportunity to create a dynamic career in the golf industry.
Devin Gee ’08
Head Professional, Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.
As a native of Waterville, Maine, Devin Gee began playing the golf at age 14. Gee played throughout high school and joined the golf team at Methodist University. He started a summer internship in 2006 at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania, which has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the United States. Gee returned to Oakmont for each of his next three summers, and upon graduation from Methodist University, he was offered the opportunity to become an assistant professional under the guidance of renowned Oakmont pro Bob Ford. Gee gives much credit for his love and knowledge of golf to the good fortune of having Mr. Ford as a mentor and boss for 11 years. When Mr. Ford retired after 42 years at Oakmont, Gee was promoted to head professional. He is only the club’s third head professional in the last 69 years.
Jimmy Hanlin ’93
Golf Personality, Fox News, Concord, Ohio
Known for his solid swing and electric wardrobe, this former mini-tour player is the co-host of the nationally televised golf show, “18 Holes and Swing Clinic,” with LPGA Tour Player Natalie Gulbis and Fox Sports Holly Sonders. The show airs on FOX Sports, ROOT, YES & AT&T SportsNet. Hanlin’s regional shows “Links to the Game” and “Pin Shot” air on FOX Sports Ohio and SportsTime Ohio. Hanlin has received several golf-related awards and is a three-time Emmy winner for his television work. Hanlin is a managing partner at two of Ohio’s finest courses: Little Mountain Country Club in Concord, Ohio, which earned a five-star rating from Golf Digest, and StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio. When he is not on TV, radio or managing his golf courses, he gives back by supporting local and national charities, including First Tee of Cleveland and Akron and spending time with his two sons, Palmer and Hogan.
Charlie Fisher ’01
Channel Marketing Manager, Golf Pride Grips, Pinehurst, N.C.
Charlie Fisher grew up in the poorest part of West Virginia. His family gave up everything to send him to Methodist. He earned enough money to go to college, graduated in 2001, then went on to earn his MBA in 2011. Early in his career, Fisher distinguished himself in his job at Titleist as a consumer test coordinator, moved to product test supervisor, and then was hired by Golf Pride Grips as the North America Distribution Manager. He now serves as the Marketing Channel Manager. Fisher is an enthusiastic leader, passionate communicator, and team builder who creates effective relationships across all functional teams to ensure goals are met or exceeded. He thrives in a team environment of people who are equally as engaged, and brings a “can-do” attitude for creatively designing and launching new products.
Derek DiStefano ’05 & Willy DiStefano ’08
Managing Partners, DWA Golf, St. Augustine, Fla.
Derek and Willy DiStefano, both alumni of Methodist’s PGA Golf Management Program, have dedicated their careers to offering the best playing experience to golfers of any age and ability level. Their company, DWA Golf Management, is a golf course consulting business offering a full diagnostic analysis of operations, systems, and programs. Their family-owned venture, The Golf Club at South Hampton, features a premier practice facility designed so that the average golfer can enjoy training like the pros.
Golf and Methodist University have both been family endeavors for the DiStefanos. Sister Andrea was a member of the MU lacrosse team, and Derek met his wife Audra while in school here. Shortly after graduating from Methodist in 2005, Derek earned his PGA Membership and later became a Certified PGA Professional in the area of Golf Operations.
Derek’s awards include Northern Chapter of the North Florida PGA Section’s Merchandiser of the Year for Public Courses and Assistant Golf Professional of the Year. Willy has developed a keen, common sense approach to golf course operations and the development of good businesses practices. Derek also volunteers his time to coach a local high school golf team. Willy has been recognized as the Merchandiser of the Year for the North Florida PGA Section in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Kevin Roberts ’94
Director of Golf, Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club, New Durham, N.H.
Now Director of Golf at Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club, which was named one of the top 10 new private clubs in the country in 2004 by Golf Digest, Kevin Roberts still thinks about the great times he had in his senior year at Methodist, when he roomed with friends Lee Burrows, Brian Bishop and Jonathan Flynn in an on-campus apartment. And even though he graduated in 1994, he still speaks with Director Jerry Hogge every few months.
“I could write a book about Mr. Hogge and all of the ways he has helped me,” Roberts said. “Mr. Hogge was a great mentor while I was at Methodist and I learned a great deal in the classes he taught. But he has been even more instrumental in my development as a golf professional since I have left school.”
In 1995, Roberts applied for a position at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but when he made it to the interview stage, he couldn’t afford to fly down. “Mr. Hogge talked to the director of golf at The Dunes Club, Cliff Mann, and persuaded him to give me a phone interview,” Roberts said. “I got the job from the phone interview and believe it was the opening I needed to move in the direction of the private golf sector and eventually secure a job like the one I currently hold. I know I wouldn’t have gotten that position without the help of Mr. Hogge and I am forever grateful to him for that.”
Now, Roberts does his part to pass along some of the help that he received, whether as an employer of MU interns, or when he talks to young golfers about choosing Methodist University.
Marianne Atwell ’01
Buyer, Pebble Beach Company, Pebble Beach, Calif.
A member of the women’s golf team during her time at Methodist, Marianne Atwell calls former Coach Kim Kincer “an inspiration,” and considers golf team practices the most memorable and enjoyable times she had on campus. “She always had time for us and loved us no matter how crazy we may have made her,” Atwell said. “She is a big reason I decided to go back to school and obtain my MBA.” Atwell has kept in touch with Kincer and others in the program, especially through the annual PGA Show in Florida, where the Golf Management staff also puts together a special gathering for MU alumni.
“I enjoy seeing all of the staff at the show, and the fact that the Methodist booth is always the busiest – with alumni and current students as well as potential employers – reminds me that I chose the best PGM school possible,” she said.
Atwell graduated with her MBA from Marylhurst University. She said Kincer taught her to continuously reach for new opportunities, and never to stop.
Before joining Pebble Beach, Atwell was an assistant buyer for more than three years at Macy’s in New York City. Prior to that, she was an assistant golf professional at two clubs. In 2006, she received her PGA membership. At Pebble Beach, Atwell buys the hardgoods for all of the golf shops on the resort’s four courses, as well as the women’s golf apparel and the merchandise for the kids’ shop. She also sees other MU alumni there from time to time, like graduates Mike Duncan and Caleb Wilson, who were hired on as assistant professionals after their internships ended in the fall.
“Methodist has a great reputation for quality students and graduates at Pebble Beach because of past students who have done their internships here,” Atwell said.
Billy Hoffman ’05
Director of Instruction, Westwood Country Club, Vienna, Va.
Growing up playing golf at Chevy Chase Club, Billy Hoffman chose Methodist when he decided golf would be his career path. As a student, he interned at Four Streams Golf Club, Columbia Country Club and Congressional Country Club, where he was hired after graduation and where he received his Class A PGA membership in 2006.
“I spent three years at Congressional, where I learned every aspect of a golf operation and had the opportunity to be involved in the operations of two PGA Tour events,” Hoffman said. “My passion for teaching exploded during my time at Congressional, where I taught nearly 400 lessons a year, conducted several one-week long junior golf camps and taught over 20 golf clinics a year.”
After joining Westwood, his passion for playing also flourished. “I have learned to enjoy every aspect of the game and respect everything it stands for,” Hoffman said. “I love to compete in local and national tournaments and continue to thrive on the challenges and rewards of teaching. I consider myself a perpetual student of the game.” Where ever he goes, Hoffman said, he always finds a Methodist graduate in the golf program.
“If you are passionate about golf and truly love the game, Methodist is hands down the best place you can go,” he said. “My time at Methodist was a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the golf courses within one hour of Fayetteville, I made friendships that will last a lifetime and found a beautiful wife as well!”
James Ondo ’05
Head Golf Professional, The Apawamis Club, Rye, N.Y
James Ondo is the head professional at The Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y., but his career has taken him all over the United States. Before his current position, he worked as an assistant professional at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, N.C.; The Loxahatchee Club in Jupiter, Fla.; and Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. As a student, he interned at St. Clair Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Tournament Players Club at Jasna Polana in Princeton, N.J.; and Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Ondo was also a member of the men’s golf team when he was a student, and says he enjoyed the fraternity and camaraderie of the team and the PGM Program. “Being able to go ‘downback’ to work on my game and play golf with my fellow ‘PGM Boys,’ as Dr. Marr lovingly referred to us, each day was priceless,” Ondo said. “I could not have had a better opportunity to develop as a player and teacher than I had with Methodist’s world-class facilities. My experiences representing Methodist as a student-athlete were also very rewarding. Competing on a nationally ranked team, while traveling the country with Coach Conley and four of my best friends, was truly a special experience.”
Ondo said Conley and Jerry Hogge had an immense impact on his life and career and that Hogge is a mentor who he calls regularly and continues to look to for help navigating the golf industry. He credits Conley for instilling players with a commitment to excellence and always demanding that they have respect for the community, school, teammates and themselves.
The rest of the PGM staff from his time at Methodist also have a place in Ondo’s accolades, people who he said inspired him daily to be a better person and student athlete. “Sharon Kerr, David Durham, Kim Kincer, Charles Koonce, and Bernie Krick are remarkable individuals,” Ondo said. “The PGM staff was more of a family than a faculty. There is not a day that goes by in the golf industry where I do not reflect on something I learned from each of those staff members. Being able to see the PGM staff, along with the president of our university, each year at the PGA Show is also very special to me.”
Scott Reilly ’06
Head Golf Professional, Philadelphia Country Club, Philadelphia, Pa.
One of Scott Reilly’s first golf jobs was working with Bernie Krick on the driving range on campus. “He was stern yet appreciative, and never shy to let you know of a teaching moment and what he expected,” Reilly said. “He was a great role model and I learned a lot about club repair and fitting.”
Since then, Reilly has gone on to become the head golf professional at Philadelphia County Club, where he has been since February 2012. His previous positions were at The County Club in Brookline, Mass., where he completed his last internship and worked for the last seven years, and The Jim McLean Golf School at Doral in Miami, Fla., where he spent two winters and became a certified instructor.
One of his more memorable moments at Methodist was playing in the Hogge Shootout with his friends, cheering for matching that came down to the last three holes. “It was always so much fun,” Reilly said. “And then, we’d go out afterwards and celebrate whether we won or lost.” From his first days at Methodist, Reilly said he appreciated the honesty that Jerry Hogge gave the students.
“He told it like it is, wanted the best for us, but gave perspective that you need to have patience and work hard,” he said. “Classes that he taught were always fun, whether he would reflect on one of his past experiences, tell of another student, or a real world situation he knew of. He cares so much for the program and the students, it was always a pleasure when we got to see him come down on the range and talk to everyone with his big smile and laugh.”
Thomas Hutton ’10
Executive Director, Southern Texas PGA, Houston, Texas
Thomas Hutton is one of 41 Executive Directors of PGA Sections in the country. The Southern Texas PGA is the fourth largest section financially and includes one of the largest junior golf programs with over 3400 juniors, 400 tournaments, and 20,000 rounds of golf. He oversees a full-time staff of 9 and 100 part-time employees. Hutton recently announced a new strategic vision for the association that highlights the need to continually promote the PGA Member, get more people playing golf, and elevate the brand.
Hutton got a small taste of event planning and working with a team when he was at Methodist, where he ran and organized Easter Jam for two years. He says this was one his most memorable experiences on campus. “It allowed me to give the student body an unbelievable event on campus with some amazing music,” he said. “It also allowed me to work closely with a lot of staff and students on campus.”
Hutton credits Jerry Hogge for a lot of his motivation as a student, and as an alumnus. “He always had his door open to talk about anything and since I have graduated, he’s been a big help in my professional career with advice and direction when I needed it,” he said.