Hamill, from Lisburn Golf Club in Northern Ireland, discusses managing the shop and coaching, getting more children to play the game and being named ‘TGI Golf Partner of the Year’.
Can you detail what your life was like from the first lock down in March 2020 until the present day?
When we arrived in Dublin airport, returning from the TGI Team Challenge, we were greeted by a bright yellow A4 page warning us of the dangers of returning with the Covid-19 virus. It all felt very surreal, but we soon came to realize it was just the start of the new reality. I think I went through several stages during lockdown.
Some downtime at home was welcome and with the good weather lots of walking as we live in a very rural area. This turned into a lazy few weeks and with corks being popped a little too early of an evening.
It wasn’t long before proper shop planning and preparation for a return to golf won over and before long everything was in place. One challenge that I didn’t get right was on how to manage stock / pre-book levels. I am guilty of being too cautious at times in my plans and I didn’t foresee the product shortages that are still lingering in 2022.
While in lockdown I set up an area in my garage that allowed me to hit shots into a large blanket hung from the ceiling. I spent a few hours watching my fellow countryman Padraig Harrington’s home lockdown video clips and managed to find some new swing thoughts that I worked on at home.
As a result I’ve found a renewed confidence in my own ball striking and also in my coaching. I’ve been fortunate to spend a little time over the years with some great coaches like Bob Torrance, Don Patterson and Pete Cowan. Some quiet time experimenting and freeing up my ideas brought me back to how I swung the club 30 years ago.
Once lockdown ended I found myself working seven days a week with my staff continuing to be furloughed. It took me a good few months to find some work/life balance as I tried to catch up for the lost months of trade. It was quite tricky watching members playing six or seven days a week while on furlough as I was punching in the hours all summer.
It’s fair to say that despite being a club professional for 20 years, there’s always new scenarios and much still to learn.
What daily challenges do you face in running a pro shop and teaching?
I enjoy both aspects of the job. The retail side and interaction with the members is great. But the game is why we are all here and helping everyone to get a little more out of their game is the most satisfying of all.
My biggest challenge is myself. My time management skills are poor which is something I need to improve on. When I turned professional as a 16 years old in 1982, the PGA training course was in its infancy. Pre mobile phones, computers and tee-time booking systems. I see so many of the younger professionals starting out with business structures in place and a better understanding of how to delegate roles within their business effectively.
TGI Golf have been ahead of the game in providing training and support in these areas.
There is a constant flow of new golf products – how do you manage your stock to serve the needs of your members and visitors?
My members and customers have been very loyal over the years. They trust the advice and opinions of my staff.
TaylorMade, adidas, FootJoy, Callaway and Srixon are some of the brands that I continue to stock. Building relationships with customers, brands and professionals that last and work effectively are how I see my business progressing.
The quality of products across the market is very high. Customers appreciate continuity and with the climbing prices it may take a season or two to update someone’s equipment.
How do you manage your day?
I have set out a monthly timetable which will change depending upon TGI events / staff holidays / club schedule. As a rule I will work full shop days, four days a week and coach on the other days. Staffing is a challenging part of the job. I’ve been very fortunate to always have top quality professional staff with me.
What are you doing to support junior golf and introduce children to the sport?
For the last 10 years or so we’ve been running a cadet coaching scheme. This offers coaching days during the summer alongside a cadet membership to boys and girls between seven and 11 years old.
It’s a great way to help every young person to get started in the game. My club Lisburn and our general manager have been instrumental in planning the scheme and our uptake of juvenile membership has been flourishing again.
Are you trying to attract more women to golf?
We have in the past run ‘Give Golf a Go’ for women. These proved very worthwhile and we now have a new batch of female members from a healthy variety of backgrounds.
I enjoy seeing new and younger faces in the ladies’ branch. With club membership categories all full it may be a case of improving what I offer the women’s section at this time.
A lot of PGA pros are having to be a step ahead of their competitors in their offerings and technology – what additional added value services do you provide?
My pro shop covers a large area and stands 50 yards or so from the clubhouse. Approximately a third of the shop is an open plan swing room with a simulator and FlightScope. It’s great to offer the facility a few feet from the till. A few swing tips or the chance to test a new club is instantly available in-store.
You recently won TGI Golf Partner of the Year, how did that feel?
It was an out of the blue moment when my retail consultant Peter Smyth called and informed me of the nomination. It felt great to be recognized as a valued partner of the TGI Golf Partnership.
These past few years I’ve tried to improve my relationships with customers and really enjoyed connecting with other partners at TGI events. That’s not something I ever expected to be recognized at an awards ceremony but I’m very grateful to those who did.
When did you join the TGI Golf Partnership and what was it about it that attracted you?
Twenty years ago the landscape (and my waistline) were very different. TGI was populated by the leading club professionals in my region and it seemed clear that my learning curve would only benefit from all the knowledge that was available as a TGI Partner.
Has TGI Golf been of benefit to you as a PGA professional?
Undoubtedly it has. It streamlined how I got my business up to speed. Providing tools and expertise in so many areas from merchandising to navigating the online challenges.
Most of all, I appreciate the friendships, particularly with fellow professionals in Scotland and England, that I would never have known outside TGI.
What year did you turn professional and what have been your career highlights, both playing and employment?
I turned pro at 16 and qualified three years later. Winning the Irish order of merit in 1988 was a big deal at the time.
Playing alongside names like Walton, Darcy, Smyth, O’Connor Junior and Senior several times a year was amazing, looking back.
I qualified through the tour school in 1988 and played full time until 1995.
Losing a play-off for the Atlantic Open in 1990 and winning the European U25’s Open in Paris were my favorite memories.