EDMOND — Instead of sitting in an office wishing they were on the golf course, some University of Central Oklahoma students are planning to make the golf course their offices.
Saturday, 12 students will walk at graduation and head to internships across the country to finish their degrees. It will be the second class of students to graduate since the school's golf management program became Professional Golfers Assocation-accredited in 2008.
Students in the program earn a business administration degree along with classes that prepare them for working in the golf industry. Add that to a required 16 months of internship, and attaining a degree is a year-round task.
“It's a commitment,” said Clay Madden, who is graduating Saturday. “You have to have a passion for it and know that this is what you want to do.”
Madden will head to Oregon to begin the final seven-month internship that will complete his degree. Hopefully, he said, that will lead to full-time work, though there is not much doubt Madden and the other graduates will find employment.
Bob Phelps, director of the program, said they have had a 100 percent placement rate after graduation so far.
He credits this to UCO being one of only 20 universities across the country accredited by the PGA. That accreditation means students have to learn every aspect of the golf business, including food establishments, turf management, and the rules and mechanics of golf.
Playing golf, of course, is a large part of the major. Students play in tournaments throughout the year and have to pass a 36-hole player ability test to qualify for PGA membership.
Phelps said students have to have a 12 handicap or less to be in the degree program, which narrows the field for prospective students.
“If you haven't passed your PAT test, then you have to go out and practice a lot,” Madden said.
Once students graduate from the program, they are eligible to become coaches, directors of courses, sales representatives, rules officials or tournament directors.
Justin Limon, who was in the first graduating class, works for the Oklahoma Golf Association, running tournaments.
“I did my internship with OGA and walked right into my job,” he said.
Learning the ins and outs of the business while still in school allowed Limon to hit the ground running, he said.
Other graduates and students from the program are spread around the country from Florida to California, and even Alaska.
“If you're the kind of person who wants to see the country, this is the thing for you because you get a lot of cool opportunities,” Madden said.
Justin McCormick said he knew he wanted to work in the golf business when he was in high school, and that's why he came to UCO. He said the addition of a business degree to go along with the golf skills appealed to him more than other schools that were focused on agriculture or hospitality.
Madden said the business background adds value to the degree and allows graduates to go along other paths if they choose.
“Say the golf thing doesn't work out in the long run; we've built such a great network (through working at golf clubs) that we can make ourselves marketable in any business,” he said.