Student and Alumni Newsletter - September 2013
Sep 17, 2013
From GAA to Playing with Tiger Woods
As published in Florida Golf Central, Volume 14, Issue 4
Brett Cafferty came to GAA with an engineering degree and a 7 handicap. He left 16 months later with a job at prestigious Isleworth Country club that included frequent rounds with member Tiger Woods.
Now as Isleworth's head professional, Cafferty enjoys one of the highest-profile club professional jobs in the world. The membership at the Orlando-area club includes about two-dozen PGA Tour and LPGA Tour pros, including Bubba Watson, Retief Goosen and Paula Creamer. Woods was a member before relocating to Jupiter, Fla., in 2011.
Though Cafferty is only one of hundreds of GAA graduates who have gone on to become PGA of America club professionals, working at Isleworth affords him rare opportunities to mingle and work with the game's biggest stars – whether enjoying a leisurely round of planning an upcoming Tavistock Cup.
"Brett came to Golf Academy of America highly motivated and eager to learn," said GAA-Orlando campus director Brad Turner, who has maintained a close relationship with Cafferty. "He took advantage of our many resources, and now he has a dream job."
Cafferty is one of the few club pros that may have understood how the 20 PGA members at the past weekend's PGA Championship felt playing beside Woods and the world's top golfers.
"Tiger and I played quite a bit of golf together," said Cafferty. "He used to like to give me his driver and see how I hit it. When we saw each other, we'd always insult each other in a friendly way."
One of Cafferty's favorite stories is about a match against Woods, who phoned PGA Tour veteran John Cook on the course after Cook, Cafferty and two partners had teed off. Cook concocted a match pitting Woods against the best-balls core from the existing foursome with Woods forfeiting all holes played prior to his arrival. Under Cook's rules, Woods trailed by seven holes when he joined the group on the eighth tee. Woods began with six straight birdies to pull close before Cook responded with some birdies of his own as the foursome held on to win.
"It's tough getting into Tiger Woods' wallet," said Cafferty, whose handicap is down to less than one stroke.
Cafferty didn't imagine keeping such heady company when he enrolled at GAA Orlando's campus in 2003. But he knew his passion for golf far exceeded his drive to be an engineer. And he was eager to begin training for a new career.
So Cafferty sought out instruction from several members of GAA faculty, learning various teaching techniques. He drew on classroom instruction at GAA to move through the PGA apprentice program and earn his PGA membership.
"My training at Golf Academy of America really helped," Cafferty said. "Seeing the different methods taught by golf instructors at Golf Academy of America was a great learning experience. Golf Academy of America helped me with a resume and offered networking opportunities that aren't offered anywhere else."
Contacts made the GAA also have played a major role in Cafferty's success. A fellow student working part-time at Isleworth helped Cafferty get his foot in the door at the club. Cafferty said he often turns to Orlando campus director Brad Turner for advice.
Recent GAA graduates display their skills at top private, public and resort golf courses throughout the country.
Lester Poole, a 2011 graduate of GAA Myrtle Beach campus, was quickly promoted to head professional at Royal New Kent Golf Club, rated as high as No. 84 on Golf Digest's list of "100 Greatest Golf Courses." Myrtle Beach classmate Jesse Noelke is the head professional at The Rail Golf Course, which hosted an annual LPGA Tour event for three decades, in his hometown of Springfield, Ill.
Paul Lepler is one who has become a General Manager with Fore Golf Partners management group at The Courses at London Bridge Golf Club in Lake Havasu, AZ. I referred one of our pending grads for a position with him that could lead to an Assistant GM leadership role.
"I look forward to everything the future has in store for me and have the Golf Academy to thank for getting me started," says Paul.
Limited Edition Club at Special GAA Price to Benefit Folds of Honor
Former GAA student, Kellen Tallada is working for Fujikura, which has developed a new limited model club called the "Patriot" FUEL. Tallada and Fujikura would like to offer it to students of the Golf Academy of America for only $77.
The special FUEL 60 Tour Spec is available in Stiff and X-Stiff. Proceeds go to the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships and other assistance to spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled while in service to our country.
To order your limited edition Folds of Honor club, contact Fujikura at 760.597.7808 and ask for Kellen.
Check Out Our Graduates
George W. Bush's Warrior Open Selects GAA Student Andrew Montgomery
Andrew Montgomery credits golf with helping him heal from wounds throughout his body caused by a triple-strand IED in Afghanistan in April 2011. Though he had played only a dozen or so rounds before his injuries, the Army staff sergeant was encouraged to play during his recuperation at Fort Drum, N.Y.
"When I was out on the course, I was thinking about the next shot," said Montgomery, a student at Golf Academy of America's Myrtle Beach, S.C., campus. "It was the only time I wasn't reliving the nightmare."
Two years later, Montgomery has been honored as one of 22 wounded soldiers selected to compete in the third-annual Warrior Open Tournament sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The event will be Sept. 26-28 at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.
"We're extremely proud of Andrew," said Golf Academy of America president Jim Hart. "He's been rewarded for his hard work and dedication."
Montgomery's drive to succeed led him to Golf Academy of America, where he's trimmed his handicap from 17 to 6 in only eight months while working with Myrtle Beach campus' PGA instructors and on his own on the driving range and on the academy's golf simulators.
"I'm going to the Warrior Open to win," said Montgomery, who will have to beat Golf Academy of America graduate Chad Pfeifer, the Warrior Open champion in 2011 and 2012.
"The Golf Academy of America has been great for me," Montgomery said. "I've been able to recreate my swing. I've learned to shape my shots and improve my short game. When I finish, I'll be ready to teach golf to people with disabilities at a non-profit clinic."
San Diego Grad Remains Serious About Success
Brian Michaud started the pursuit of his career in the golf industry in May of 2012 when he enrolled at the GAA San Diego campus.
Michaud had spent the previous ten years in retail as a manager for both Sprint and Good Guys. When the recession hit and his position was eliminated, Michaud found purpose in this misfortune with the opportunity to be there for his family -- including spending two years caring for a family member who had a massive stroke five days after losing his position.
Upon moving to the San Diego area, Michaud's drive for success was initiated. It was very apparent that his intentions were serious and the goals he set forth for himself, though lofty, were firmly in his sights.
While talking to faculty and staff he made casual but definite comments about what those goals were: to achieve every certification offered at the Academy, the president's award, and the position of valedictorian.
By the end of his third semester he was well on his way to achieving these goals by securing two of the five certification requirements while receiving the highest merits in class. By the end of his tenure at the Academy, Michaud had achieved every goal he had set, as well as having worked as a Federal Work Study student for a semester and serving his peers as a class representative and peer mentor.
Michaud currently works for the SCPGA Junior Tour as a team member and has held this position since the beginning of his third semester. He is continuing his education through Virginia College to pursue his Bachelor's Degree. He continues to work with the junior tour.
Michaud still pursues his passion for golf and his career with all the fervor as that of one who is drowning grasps a life preserver.
Phoenix Grad Becomes General Manager
Paul Lepler, a graduate of GAA Phoenix, has become a General Manager with Fore Golf Partners management group at The Courses at London Bridge Golf Club in Lake Havasu, Ariz.
"I look forward to everything the future has in store for me and have the Golf Academy to thank for getting me started," Lepler said.
As a perfect example to how the opportunities of GAA unfold, Lepler is looking for an Assistant General Manager and is considering a pending graduate recommended by Fred Barr, Director of Career Services at GAA Phoenix.