Conquering the Unconquerable – How AC Cox, PGA Blends Education, and Golf to Create Change
By AC Cox, PGA
I was born in Pass Christian, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. It is about an hour from New Orleans. My grandfather was introduced as a teenager to the game in Mississippi by his father, who started caddying at a local club.
He learned the game from the caddies at the club, and also from playing the course on caddy days. This was a common practice for caddies in 1920s. My grandfather taught his five sons how to play the game and they all became great golfers. He gave me my first golf club (which I still have) when I was 10, and I’ve been playing the game ever since.
The challenge of conquering the impossible is the aspect of the game that keeps me returning to the game. As the movie explains, Tin Cup, “perfection is unattainable,” and I think this is what motivates me.
I enjoy the idea of golf as a game played with other people. I also appreciate the benefits of being able to spend time alone and with others. One bonus to the coronavirus pandemic is that it brought me back to walking when I play — something that I missed for years.
During my senior year in high school, a recruiter from Mississippi State University visited our campus and introduced me to the school’s PGA Golf Management University Program. Given that I was the four year captain of my high schools golf team, I thought the program would be a good fit. After much deliberation, I enrolled at Mississippi State and majored in Professional Golf Management, becoming the program’s first Black graduate and the second Black PGA Golf Management student to graduate in the country.
I was employed at a Michigan golf club when I was elected to PGA Membership in Sept 2000. I returned to Mississippi State to complete my MBA as the season ended. I was then offered a position as Assistant Director in a newly accredited PGA Golf Management degree program at Campbell University. Although my responsibilities were primarily classroom instruction, I was able to teach undergraduate and graduate marketing courses after completing my MBA in 2001.
I spent seven years at Campbell, then three years at North Carolina State University’s PGA Golf Management program, and three years as a trainer and recruiter at GOLFTEC Headquarters in Denver. My entire career in the golf industry revolved around teaching adult learners.
People assume that I am a coach for the SLCC golf team when I tell them that I work at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). We no longer have golf as an interscholastic sports, which only makes matters worse. However, once I explain that I was a full-time marketing professor and now serve as the Interim Associate Dean in the Gail Miller School of Business at SLCC — as well as being an active PGA Professional — they move from confusion to intrigue.
Both careers have similarities. Both careers require superior customer service and both must be present, engaging, sympathetic, understanding, and knowledgeable. Both require a deep understanding and appreciation of consumer behavior and how they make decisions.
My career path has allowed me to pursue both my passions. The golf industry has given me opportunities and experiences that I might not have otherwise. My students also have the opportunity to benefit from my academic teaching.
The business side of golf needs people with business expertise. Many concepts that I share with my marketing students have relevance to the golf industry. My fellow PGA Professionals in Utah and Colorado recognized this connection and elected me to their respective Board of Director. My election in Utah makes my one-time appointment as a member of a Board of Directors in multiple Sections. This is a sign that the industry is gradually recognizing the importance and value of representation. I’m grateful that I get to be a pioneer.
I love teaching golf lessons and am currently working with SLCC on an indoor teaching facility.
It was serendipitous I found my way into higher education through the golf industry. I would not have had the career success I’ve experienced in academia without golf and vice versa.
Now, I have the best both of them.
Are you interested in a career as a golfer or PGA Member? Visit this site to find out more. pga.org/workingolf.