By Matt Ward
A 26-year member of the PGA, is responsible for the trajectory of the semi-private Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield, NH. In his brief time at Montcalm he has transformed the facility by introducing a new state of the art practice & training facility, a new golf school offering clinics and instruction to a more inclusive following of women, juniors and families.
His experience includes time spent at high profile clubs like Newport Country Club and Point Judith Country Club in Rhode Island, The Loxahatchee Club and Royal Palm Beach Country Club in Florida, and his longest tenure at The Quechee Club in Vermont for 20 seasons.
THE ROGERS STORY —
I knew I wanted to be involved in the golf industry early on when I relocated to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and first started working at PGA National Golf Club as a set-up person for the golf schools. My eyes were opened to the best players in the game – Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and others and that pushed me to the edge by observing and experiencing the benchmark in golf.
I was spoiled early in my career and I’m still spoiled. While I now winter as an instructor at the Joey D School in Jupiter, FL, I’m surrounded by players at the highest level like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kopeka, Michele Lee, Lexi Thompson and close to 70 touring professional there. I see their work ethic and I observe. Being around the best, you learn by listening. Over the years I’ve seen the best instructors in the world teach the best players and I’ve picked up countless tidbits along the way that have positively influenced me.
Collectively these mindful moments coupled with time spent at high profile clubs has provided me with a foundation and a playbook for my growth and sustaining career. In learning best practices I try to impart those lessons every day at Montcalm.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I come to work and try to make things a little better every day. It sets an example for the rest of the staff and it makes things better for the members and it overall makes for a great experience for everyone.
This has been a very turbulent year — what’s the golf season been like at Montcalm?
Like so many, the pandemic has been challenging for Montcalm but even more so at the start of the season. We implemented new practices to make our club safe for our staff, members and guests but we also focused on providing a pleasant experience. We were limited with state restrictions and could only have members on site.
Once the state’s restrictions were loosened Montcalm started to morph into what we thought. We saw a significant increase in rounds and membership numbers went up. We caught our stride and eventually all the numbers went up in rounds, lessons and food and beverage.
We know once golfers experience our facility, its eyes wide open and with a facility this good, most will be back to play again and again. We generally host numerous events in a season but with COVID there were some business/corporate concerns so we’ve rescheduled events to later in the season and others are now moved to 2021.
What’s been the biggest adjustment this season for you and the entire golf staff?
Working through restrictions and training our staff on new safety and hygiene practices was an adjustment period but overall golf has been a positive, silver lining moment during these trying COVID times. We’ve seen a huge uptick in lessons due to our new training center open for its first full season so the golf clinics, school and individual lessons went north. Business turned around once some restrictions were lifted and we recorded more rounds than Montcalm has seen in 20 years.
There were many days when we were doing 140-150 people so our crew would have to stand down and push their work off to another day or get out there at 5 a.m. Our food & beverage has pumped out a great product at high volumes and another positive adjustment was we opened things up for day trippers from around New England so that has been positive.
What makes a golf round special at Montcalm?
Our staff is second to none so that, combined with the playability of the course and unmatched views, it’s just a welcoming, warm environment and a great, pure golf experience. Everyone here is genuine with positive attitudes and I hear a lot of comments about how great our staff is.
Add to that, on a clear day you’re staring at 70 miles of the Green Mountains. That in and of itself makes it special. It really is so beautiful here that you can lose focus on your game and get preoccupied at the natural beauty. The topography with the general course layout make this a special course, one you can play every day without getting bored.
Who is your golf customer and how are you cultivating awareness about Montcalm?
The makeup of our members are local, working and career professionals in the field of healthcare (with nearby Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center), law enforcement as well as entrepreneurs and some local business owners in the area. Many of our customers are members of other private facilities who hadn’t played here because it was highly privatized the past 20 years. We’ve marketed our club more this year and word is out on the street and now those folks are heading over. There are people who live in the area who never knew Montcalm was here and we believe we are New Hampshire’s best secret. Now we have students from nearby Dartmouth College looking for a place to play golf for the fall and next spring so it’s cool stuff.
You are very active in the golf teaching arena — what advice would you give prospective students looking for someone to help with their game?
Observe first and be a supervisor. From a philosophy standpoint, I’m going to fix your set-up and your balance and I won’t delve into mechanics until I’m absolutely sure you can set up for the golf ball athletically.
The characteristics of a good golf swing in many ways can be compared to building a house. You have to make sure you have a solid foundation so I’ll generally focus first on the setup, balance and posture. Then the walls and windows are the grip and stance and the roof is the mechanics. There are some students who know what they want to work on in particular and the reality is it’s generally one of the ABC’s of golf (grip, stance, posture that they didn’t consider when they came into the lesson.
It’s typically something small and it helps shrink the learning curve. I try to ensure each golfer leaves the lesson tee with 3-4 items to work on, it lays the ground work for the blue-collar aspect of it, which is practice.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would make golf more accessible to everyone across the board whether you’re rich, poor or wherever you live and in all walks of life. There are some great programs and initiatives out there but we can always do more. It’s a game for life and teaches you a lot about yourself and others.
The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them — what would you advise them by doing singularly and collectively?
We need to continue to take down the barriers to entry, namely the people who can’t afford to play or think they’re physically limited. I’ve seen people play with one arm or who are quadriplegic and they keep charging along. The game was privatized for so long and it’s morphing into something different and I think it’s great we’re heading in that direction. There are so many good programs out there like First Tee and Executive Women’s Golf Association, that are giving golf the exposure it needs. It’s an endless fountain in my mind.
Your roots and golf involvements are in New England — what makes the area so ripe for golf?
Nowadays you can play golf in New England nine months a year. You have to play some days in 40-degree weather but overall global warming has lent itself to more golf. 70 and 80 degrees is common in October and allows us to expand the calendar of golf. A lot of New Englanders are outdoor recreational enthusiasts and adventure-oriented so playing golf is a natural fit for many.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Bob Below was a Master Teaching Professional at PGA National. I was on the way to the tee for my playing ability test — to become a PGA member. Bob said “Stevie, if you don’t have it now, you’re not going to get it here or anywhere.” I learned much from taking lessons with him and knew there was no reason to go out and reinvent the wheel. It’s why I passed the PAT Playing Ability Test. Bob taught the game to my mom and dad — both members at PGA National — so he introduced me to the serious side of the game and he fits the bill. I never forgot that moment or him.