A Sweet Spot in His Career

Business degree helps prepare alumnus for career as golf pro

Published: August 12, 2019
Editor’s note: East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is the permanent home of the TOUR Championship. The 2019 event will be held Aug. 21-25.
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When Drew Dunn earned his business degree from Auburn in 2004, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a career. “I took a little time off and then I took a job selling office supplies,” he said. “It took me about two weeks to figure out that’s not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Dunn came to the famed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and caddied for two years while he determined his career path.

When East Lake closed down at the end of 2007 to revamp its greens, Dunn worked at a public golf course in Atlanta and figured out what he needed to do to become a PGA golf professional. He took the playing ability test, which allowed him to enroll in the apprentice program. Then he returned to East Lake as an assistant, “at the bottom of the totem pole,” where he worked in operations and steadily advanced. “I’ve worked in every position in the golf department,” he said. “Something that I’m very proud of is that I was able to go from caddie to head professional in eight years at a club like this.”

Dunn understood the necessity of paying his dues in the golf industry. “Every person in this business as a PGA head professional or general manager of a club has the same story that they started as a caddie or cart guy. Everybody starts at the bottom,” Dunn said.

When starting out, young employees need a road map to get to their final destination—their career goal, whatever that may be. “For me, that was to be a head golf professional at a high-end private golf club,” Dunn said.

Dunn oversees everyone in East Lake’s golf department. “Having worked all of those positions, I know the frustrations, the challenges and the opportunities that come with working that shift or that position,” he said. “I’m able to relate and communicate with my employees, I understand what they are going through, the frustrations that they might have and I also understand how they can improve upon what they’re doing.”

Dunn says that when people hear he’s a golf professional, most think he just comes to work and plays golf every day and teaches lessons, but the job is far more than that.

“First and foremost, the golf industry is a hospitality industry,” he said. “We pride ourselves on our customer service here at East Lake. I also oversee the golf shop and that’s the retail/manager side of me where we do all of the budgeting for the year and buying merchandise, keeping up with trends, new equipment. I handle all of the accounts payable for the golf shop, meet with vendors and preview the line. I do all of the staffing for the golf department, which involves hiring the golf professionals, caddie manager, the merchandiser and buyer for the golf shop, all of our locker room staff, and I oversee the hiring of our caddie department, which is over a hundred guys.”

Then there’s the teaching side. Dunn gives individual lessons to members, group clinics for corporate members, and runs tournaments.

He works on annual budgets, capital planning, training programs for employees, equipment for the range and other club matters. “Every day I come here is different,” he said. “You have to do all of that while being the face of the golf department—developing and maintaining relationships with our members and guests. You get pulled in a million directions, but it’s exciting and it keeps you on your toes.”

Dunn cites a joke: If you don’t want to play golf, become a golf professional. “There are times of the year when I don’t play at all,” he said. “During the fall, I almost don’t play golf. It’s in my job description to maintain a golf game suitable to the level of a professional. It’s tough to balance all of that and still play golf.”

Dunn’s major in Auburn’s Harbert College of Business was entrepreneurship and family business, which he chose because he felt it was a well-rounded major that gave him “a little bit of every major you could get.” Although he didn’t know then that he would be a golf professional, he was well prepared for it. “I had my HR classes, real estate classes, accounting classes—everything I did there ended up being great preparation for me at East Lake,” he said.

“With all the history and reputation, I’m lucky to be here. I try to preserve what was here before me and improve upon it. If I spent the rest of my career at East Lake, I’d be a happy guy.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.