Graduate, Golf Academy of America in San Diego
Rick Vaughn didn't waste any time chasing his golf dream after a 20-year Navy career. In fact, the then-38-year old started Golf Academy of America in San Diego three days before his retirement went into effect!
For Rick, the path to GAA started two years before his planned retirement. He wanted to spend the rest of his life in a career field that would make him the happiest, and he decided that field was golf. While doing research on various schools for golf careers, he attended a "Future Student" outing at the Maderas Country Club sponsored by Golf Academy of America. There, he met various staff members and got a feel for what GAA was all about. As Rick puts it, "That was all it took. I knew what steps I needed to take to begin my career in the golf Industry."
Rick quickly adapted to his new lifestyle as a student and discovered numerous other veterans attending the school. During the first semester, it was made quite clear that, in order to succeed, his military work ethic would be important—as well as something new to him called "networking."
Rick began to conduct research on facilities he would be interested in upon graduation and began to fine tune his networking skills in his second semester at GAA.
Through the research he conducted, he targeted the Coachella Valley area of Palm Desert, specifically Troon Golf properties. Each month Rick traveled to the desert community to expand his networking with the Head Professionals at Indian Wells Golf Resort, The Classic Club and the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort–all of which are Troon Properties.
His persistence eventually paid off. In October of 2012 (two months before graduation) Rick sent follow-up emails to contacts in the desert about possible employment opportunities. One reply read, "Call me ASAP". Rick immediately contacted Jeff Beier, the Head Professional at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort. Jeff had an unexpected opening for an Assistant Golf Professional and wanted to interview Rick for the position the following week.
Rick immediately turned to GAA's Kevin Connole, PGA, for advice. Kevin helped Rick prepare for the interview–Rick's first job interview ever! The next day, Jeff Beier called Rick and decided to do the interview over the phone. After 35 minutes, Jeff asked, "So when can you start"?
While continuing his courses at GAA, Rick served as Assistant Golf Professional with Troon Golf Management at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort in Palm Desert, California. Since then, he has not only spread the secret about the "Golf Mecca of the West" to fellow students, but has referred a student for employment and seen three other students from his class join him at other facilities in the desert to begin their careers in the golf industry.
Rick is grateful for the "knowledge and preparation" he got at Golf Academy of America. He said, "This isn't a job, it's not even a career. This is a life that I love to live every morning that I wake up. Attending Golf Academy of America was the best thing that I could have done after my career in the Navy."