Hole in one for golf apprentice
Having recently completed his New Zealand Apprenticeship with the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and Skills Active Aotearoa, Nick Loach's drive and work ethic has earned him the title of PGA Top Student for the third consecutive year.
To become a qualified PGA professional, promising amateur golfers are selected to complete the PGA programme, which is linked to Skills Active’s New Zealand Apprenticeship for sport coaches and instructors. Apprentices undertake three years of on-job training while employed at a PGA approved golf course or driving range. Completing the qualification while they work allows the apprentice to gain real experience in the industry, and receive support from the experts.
Winning the Top Student Award is no easy feat: judging is based on both academic ability and playing results. Nick averaged 90% on his assignments, and has held the best average each year for his playing. The Top Student receives a scholarship, which covers the apprenticeship fees. Having finished his apprenticeship, Nick’s latest scholarship will go towards his professional development.
Nick’s career teed off when, after years of playing at the Nelson Golf Club, Nick's coach, Glynn, offered him a job. Nick began doing retail and admin work in the shop, and then started coaching a wide range of keen golfers.
"Playing as an amateur, I wasn't making any money, and was working full-time to fund my tournaments. Glynn suggested the apprenticeship as a good option, because it meant I could develop my coaching, be qualified at 24, and as my playing was alright, he said I'd have a good shot at the scholarships."
Over the three years, Nick balanced full-time work and study with the compulsory 20 tournament rounds of golf per year.
"It was pretty hectic”, Nick says. "A lot of time goes into playing - you can’t just rock up and think, 'oh, I'm going to tear it up.'"
The qualifications in the apprenticeship cover coaching, club knowledge and development, marketing and small business management.
Nick found the small business management content particularly useful when new owners came into the shop, as he was able to put his knowledge into action. He also noticed a "massive difference" in his coaching by doing the apprenticeship.
"The more you learn, the more mistakes you realise you've made in your career. You come out of the apprenticeship with a completely different mindset - your own philosophy and beliefs", Nick says.
Looking forward, Nick plans to play more golf, and expand his breadth of coaching around the region.
"I want to get into coaching in schools and show them what golf is all about. Just facing facts, it's known as an old persons’ sport, so we need to put in stepping stones to change the image a bit, and get the kids keen", Nick says.
From there, Nick would like to set up junior programmes in all clubs around the Nelson region. He plans to use some of his recent scholarship money to buy some "flash" junior gear, and other tools to assist with his coaching.
"There is a huge opportunity to improve the pathways for kids playing golf down here", Nick says.