Golf 101: Local University Creates Course To Prepare Students

Golf 101: Local University Creates Program Blending Golf with Professional Development

By: Stephen Hanjack

For many, the game of golf is passed down generationally amongst families, be it from parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, or even between siblings. And as the game continues to boom, post-pandemic, those without a family connection have found their way onto the course through the guidance of friends and companions. But it doesn’t end there.

Thanks to the progressive approach and creative efforts of at least one university here in state, the game of golf and many of its learned intricacies are being passed down in the classroom. Western New England University (Springfield, MA) recently began offering a course through its College of Business titled: Introduction to Golf for Business Professionals, offering students a rare opportunity to learn golf in an academic environment.

As a proud alum of Western New England and member of the Mass Golf staff, I was honored when my mentor, Dr. Sharianne Walker, Dean, College of Business, proposed a Mass Golf collaboration in conducting one of the four classroom sessions.

While much of my work with Mass Golf is focused on exploring new and creative ways to grow the game of golf, opportunities to fulfill this mission personally have not often been presented. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to help inspire the next generation of golfers in Massachusetts.

Dr. Sharianne Walker and Stephen Hanjack discuss the importance of golf with Western New England University students. (Photo: Mass Golf)

As architect of the program, Dr. Walker was driven by her personal experiences in learning the game along with the university’s commitment to preparing highly functioning and highly performing professionals.

Speaking on her own experiences as a young professional without any golf experience, Dr. Walker reflected, “On Fridays, everybody in my office would go out, and they would be golfing with clients or sponsors. And I was left at the office to answer the phones. I just realized how much I was missing – the opportunity to network with decision-makers and people in the industry, which would be very valuable to advancing my career.

“When I became Dean, I thought that I wouldn’t ever want that to happen to any student. I want them to have maximum opportunities to advance their career, to meet people, and to network.”

For those of us rooted in golf, the benefits and character traits acquired through the game are obvious. Luckily for Dr. Walker, the President of Western New England, Dr. Robert E. Johnson not only subscribes to these theories but was inspired to participate.

The curriculum begins with an introductory Session I, led by Dr. Walker. Then, President Johnson steps in to teach Session II – How to Network on the Golf Course. After two more in-class sessions, the program then culminates later in the spring with an on-course outing at Tekoa Country Club (Westfield, MA).

Dr. Robert E. Johnson, President of Western New England University, believes in the value of networking on the golf course. (Photo: Western New England University)

“I think what’s really great about this is that it teaches students in real time how to network and build relationships on the golf course,” said President Johnson as he prepared to play alongside WNE students at Tekoa CC. “I think golf is an excellent place and space to develop those skills (communication, networking, and mentorship) and to evolve them to a level that I don’t think you can do in any other type of setting.”

And just as he hopes to inspire the budding professionals in Western Massachusetts, President Johnson also hopes that other universities will follow suit.

“I think that would be fantastic, because I think it’s a good way to bring people together,” added Johnson when asked about inspiring other schools.

One of those inspired by the likes of President Johnson and Dr. Walker is Bella Giard, an undergraduate student at Western New England. The Introduction to Golf program not only helped her in navigating the trickiness of golf course etiquette, but also in gaining on-course experience alongside alums and other avid golfers.

Thanks to the support and a classic case of catching the golf bug, Giard has taken it upon herself to start a golf club for women at Western New England.

“There’s an overwhelming presence of male golfers, and that’s always been the thing, but I want to do my best and do my part to help more women get into the game and fall in love with it just like I did. And I think that starting the Women’s Golf (Club) and trying to get into it as soon as possible and having it there for future Golden Bears is really important.”

Bella Giard (right) was inspired to start the Women’s Golf Club at Western New England University. (Photo: Mass Golf)

Of the many distinguished qualities associated with golf, inspiration has clearly won the day at Western New England. Perhaps this will inspire other colleges and universities to recognize golf as a tool in preparing students for the real world.

Perhaps you can help.


Western New England University – Introduction to Golf for Business Professionals

Session I – An Introduction to the Basics of Golf and a Brief History of the Game (Dr. Sharianne Walker, Dean, School of Busniess)

Session II – How to Network on the Golf Course (Dr. Robert E. Johnson, President)

Session III – Golf Etiquette and Being Somebody that Everybody Wants to Play With (Dr. Maria Toyoda, Provost)

Session IV – Getting Started in Golf (Stephen Hanjack, Mass Golf)

Session V – On Course: Spring Tournament at Tekoa CC

Western New England University offers its Introduction to Golf for Business Professionals at no cost to students. (Photo: Mass Golf)

About Mass Golf

Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport.

With a community made up of over 120,000 golf enthusiasts and over 360 member clubs, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Members enjoy the benefits of handicapping, engaging golf content, course rating, and scoring services along with the opportunity to compete in an array of events for golfers of all ages and abilities.

At the forefront of junior development, Mass Golf is proud to offer programming to youth in the state through First Tee Massachusetts and subsidized rounds of golf by way of Youth on Course.

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