The Charlene Bentt Story: From College Golf at UCLA, to Coaching to Change Lives
By Charlene Bendt, PGA
One of my favorite things about golf is the variety of every day.
There are so many opportunities to learn, grow and innovate as a golfer. That’s why, to this day, I’m still a student of the game.
Growing up with golf
As a kid, golf wasn’t one of my favorite activities, but over time I grew to love the swing, the mental aspects of playing and competing, and the intricacies of the game. I actually had a very early clue that I was meant to be a coach when I found myself comforting one of my fellow competitors during a tournament — she was in tears after it took her five tries to get the ball out of the bunker!
After playing in many junior tournaments and on the high school boys team, I went on to play college golf at UCLA. I worked hard and would do anything for improvement: lessons, golf-specific exercises, reading mental game books, talking with sports psychologists, you name. Looking back, I can see that my constant pursuit to improve was a huge motivator, educational, and sometimes a source of struggle. My mind became more focused on swing mechanics, and I felt less natural, natural, and athletic. This experience has proven to be extremely valuable in my role as a PGA Coach.
After finishing my college golf career, it was time to become a professional and travel the world playing on mini-tours. I visited places like Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. I was reminded every day as I traveled and competed that everyone eventually comes to terms with it.
Golf is a difficult game.
I was doing everything I could to improve but wasn’t seeing better results. Nearly every hour of my day was dedicated to golf. Although I was proud to be a good worker, I began to feel frustrated at the fact that I was putting in so much effort with little return on investment. This was not a fun experience at the time, but it has been extremely helpful in being able to empathize and relate to my students when they’re struggling.
My passion for competitive golf began to fade and I realized that it was time to change my role.
To the golf industry.
Learn from the best
My first job was as the University of Southern Californias Golf Operations Coordinator. I got to know the coaches who were working alongside the best young talent. I learned the intricacies of recruiting — from the other side than I had previously experienced as a student-athlete — plus the formality of the rules and regulations from the NCAA, and how to build and maintain an incredible support system for the program.
Jamie Mulligan (PGA), introduced me to USC during a tournament. He invited me along to work in the golf shop at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, California. It was a tremendous opportunity to have Jamie as my teaching mentor — not only was he the 2021 PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year, but Jamie was also coaching several tour players, top-level amateurs and recreational golfers that were club members. It was amazing to see how he worked with so many students. His passion continues to inspire me.
While at VCC, I had the privilege of helping one of my fellow PGA Professionals, Mike Miles. Mike wanted to improve his game as a former PGA Tour golfer and we were able to do this together. He eventually qualified for the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and several other PGA Tour events, and I was on the bag for all of them. I gained many valuable insights from being a part the major championships committee.
My role evolved beyond coaching. I was invited as a member of the monthly committee and board directors meetings. I helped to draft important correspondences, handled sales, and was able learn about almost every aspect of private equity clubs golf business. We always tried to improve the environment and it was an exciting, unique job. Jamie encouraged me when I had an idea and it was possible to justify it.
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aGolf fitness was growing rapidly while I was at VCC, and I was keen to learn more. Jamie supported my quest to obtain two TPI certifications and three yoga teaching certifications, and since then, I’ve created a golf-specific yoga class called Body, Mind, Golf (BMG). The classs lessons are great for helping students become more present, confident, and comfortable during the course. They can also be applied to other areas of life. They’ve truly helped people beyond golf.
Golf is a lifelong journey for both players and coaches. I’m thankful for the opportunity golf has given me to shape and create my own style and programming so that I can serve my students in a variety of ways. My students aren’t just clients, they, too, are friends.
I’ve also enjoyed all of the different experiences I’ve had in golf, but the most fulfilling part is the relationships with the many special people I’ve encountered along the way. I’ve met nearly all of my closest friends and even my husband through golf.
All the great lessons and opportunities that golf has provided me have made me feel immense gratitude. I look forward to continuing my education, teaching, and giving back to this great game.