‘My job is not to play but to manage the business’

By Mike Lewis
Dave Beegle, head golf pro at Penn National Golf Club near Fayetteville, Pa., enjoys an iced tea.

Dave Beegle, head golf pro at Penn National Golf Club

By Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Coffee Break

Dave Beegle, head golf pro at Penn National Golf Club, had a goal in life and got started early.

The native of Gettysburg, Pa., attended classes at Cawtaba College then at East Carolina University, both in North Carolina. But he soon left.

“I knew what I wanted to do,” he said, “and I knew I didn’t need a college degree.”

What he did need was an apprenticeship, and he served that with the 36-hole Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples, Fla.

“At that time there were like 35 golf courses in Naples,” he said. “There are probably over 100 now.”

He said he spent 2 1/2 good years there, but had his eyes on returning closer to home.

“I knew 75 golf pros and nobody else,” he said.

Eventually he learned of a potential job in south-central Pennsylvania and met with T.K. Nitterhouse, founder and developer of Penn National Golf Community. The first part of his job interview was an 18-hole round of golf.

Beegle has been at Penn National since 1987.

“I was 25 when I started here,” he said. “We were probably doing 25,000 rounds on an 18-hole course.”

Much has changed since then. In 1996, the club added another 18 holes and revamped its clubhouse, restaurant and pro shop.

Nowadays, he said, the club probably does about 50,000 rounds a year.

On a break, do you reach for coffee, tea, soda, water …?

Iced tea.

An average day for you includes …?

I work with several people who are morning people, and they open the golf shop and get the day started. I am more of a night person and come in between 8 and 9 o’clock. Along with managing the staff, I work with the pro shop desk customers, especially members and golf package guests. I stay in contact with starters and rangers to make sure pace of play is good or to make sure shotgun starts get to the tees on time. I usually have meetings on weekdays with ownership or other department heads to review the logistics of upcoming events. I work closely with the golf course superintendent on golfer forecasts and start times on a daily basis, especially with shotgun starts. I usually have a private golf lesson or two at the Penn National Golf Center. We offer many camps for ladies, men and juniors, but other staff members teach the camps. Later in the afternoon, we have 9-hole league play and the golf shop staff stays busy checking in customers.

With warm weather approaching, can you share a few tips with people who might want to try golfing and for those who want to improve their game?

It is hard to generalize in this area, but 85 percent of golfers slice (a shot that curves left to right sharply), and that is mostly due to a poor grip. At address, you should be able to see at least three knuckles on the top of the left hand. When someone swings the club back, the forearms rotate to the right. To square (straighten) the club back at impact, the forearms need to rotate back to the left at impact to hit a straight shot. Players who slice the ball usually rotate back correctly but do not rotate enough on the forward swing. After that, aim down the middle and the ball should stay more in play and lead to lower scores.

When practicing, hit balls that are teed up about half an inch. The goal would be to level out the swing through the impact area. I find most people hear about hitting down on the ball (which is correct) but many players overdo it.

Some sayings and jokes focus on the frustrations and challenges of golf. What’s the key to enjoying yourself on the course?

One of the funny lines I like is, “The nice thing about being inconsistent is all your shots can’t be bad.” Another one is, “When I have not played for a while and start out playing well, I say ‘I should play less more often.’”

The key is not to take it too seriously. I have played a lot of sports and usually had decent success. Golf is the toughest one, in my book. Try to hit some practice balls when time allows to get the most out of your game. Of course, it is always more fun when playing with a great group of people.

What do you wish more people knew about the business side of golf, and can you share a few thoughts about that topic?

My friends see me out in my golf clothes after a day of work and ask, “How did you play today?” My job is not to play but to manage the business. Like any other business, there are personnel issues and customer relations, as well as meetings to attend and budgets to make. As players head out to the golf course, we tell them to enjoy their round. The response is quite often, “At least I am not in the office.” I often respond with, “Don’t rub it in” — in a joking manner, of course. That line often gets a laugh. People do not think of it as a business. I have been around golf courses my entire life and obviously enjoy what I am doing.

Outside of your career, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

I have never been married and do not have any children, but I enjoy spending time with my brothers and sister in Gettysburg as well as many friends I have made over the years. I still play several sports and mostly focus on my pool game. The years go by quickly, and at some point I look to transition from full-time work to part-time work at Penn National Golf Club. I have not played much golf over the past four years (fewer than 10 rounds) and would like to play more regularly. When I have the opportunity, I would like to compete in some national APA pool tournaments with hopes of some good finishes.

Want to share a cup of coffee with our readers? Send an email to facetime@crossroadsbizjournal.com or call reporter Mike Lewis at 301-791-7482.