By: Hayden Lewis, PGA
In Celebration of the Alabama – NW Florida PGA’s 50th Anniversary
Birmingham, AL (April 19, 2019) — In life we all face our own struggles and challenges. Those highest of mountains and lowest of valleys we encounter make us who we are, and it’s important to embrace all these events in our lives with optimism and grit. Chris Biggins, commonly known as “Bigs,” PGA Assistant Golf Professional at the Country Club of Birmingham, exhibits this in every aspect of his life. “Living life to the fullest” is just half the story for Biggins. His drive to serve others and to become better every day is inspirational for so many, and yet, Biggins’ humility is his most captivating trait.
Chris has battled cerebral palsy, a permanent movement disorder, since a young age. Instead of letting the condition define what he can and can’t do, the 26-year-old is redefining those standards and thriving in his position as well as others in the Birmingham community. Along with serving at CCB, Biggins sits on the Junior Board for United Ability in Birmingham, which serves individuals with physical and mental disabilities, to help raise awareness for special events and fundraising to benefit programming. In case you didn’t think there was already enough on the plate, for the past four years Chris has trained for four months out of the year in Park City, Utah at the U.S. Paralympic Training and Development Center. “I think I have a pretty legitimate chance of making the team in 2022,” says Biggins. “I’m very humbled and honored to have this opportunity every year – I’m basically pursuing a dream that I didn’t know I had until four years ago.”
Growing up in Clarksville, Maryland Biggins and his brothers played almost every sport under the sun. During the summers he would help out at a local golf course, “It was basically like our version of daycare – we would help out wherever help was needed and go play golf in the afternoon. We loved it.” Biggins then got involved with the local First Tee program where his passion for playing the game grew even stronger.
After an impressive high school career in golf, Biggins decided to pursue his passion for the industry and attend the PGA Golf Management Program at Methodist University. During his four and a half years there, he would complete three of his internships at the Country Club of Birmingham and also walk on to the golf team his junior and senior years. Biggins eventually made Birmingham his home when he accepted a full-time position under PGA Director of Golf, Eric Eshleman.
What do you think is your favorite part about working here at CCB?
CB: We’re a big team here. It’s good because none of us are trying to undermine one another or show off to anyone – we’re all working towards the same goal. I feel like we always walk out of employee meetings feeling motivated and ready to take on projects and tasks together. It’s more than just day-to-day and mundane work because we all have goals and we want to see each other achieve those goals whether that’s individual or team based. It’s a great atmosphere and it doesn’t ever feel like work to me, which I think is rare these days.
How do you think the way you grew up in the game impacts the way you look at the industry today?
CB: Growing up in the First Tee program in the county that we lived in did a lot for me as far as instilling an initial love. I can remember wondering why we were just getting all this free stuff in golf through that program, and my parents explained to me how later down the road it would pay off because I would eventually get involved in the game and pay for things myself later as an adult. Of course you don’t think much of this stuff as a kid, but look at where I am today! If you can make golf fun for kids now the industry will bear that fruit later down the road.
At what point did you realize you wanted to be involved in the golf industry?
CB: It was an interesting transition because I played baseball for a while, but eventually just couldn’t keep up competitively. I knew I wanted to play golf in college after I had a couple of good high school seasons. Golf was such a big part of my life because it saved me after stepping away from baseball – it was the next big thing that I was good at. With my disability I’ve always been held back from being active, and golf allowed me to be competitive and find that success again instead of directing me toward a desk job.
What did you learn the most about yourself during your time at Methodist and your three internships at CCB?
CB: In college you learn the most about yourself. The first internship here I was kind of shy, but the next two after that I was able to be more creative and make the job my own. I got more comfortable in my position and realized I didn’t have to do everything by the book. I realized it’s okay to try something and it not work out, and there was a lot of freedom in that too.
How does your experience as a Paralympic skier translate to what you do in your job and work ethic?
CB: There are two measures to that in my eyes: The first is my teaching philosophy – I get to learn a lot from my coaches when I’m training with them. Seeing them coach a completely different sport changes the way I approach teaching here at CCB. The other side to that is knowing that I’m going to be gone for four months out of the year so I understand I have to work that much harder and be present to achieve the goals I have for myself in golf. In a way it does put a hold on the progression of my golf career, but I think in the long run I’m learning so much about myself and I can take that with me down the road.
What are your goals for United Ability in Birmingham and your involvement there?
CB: Big picture I would love to see golf in the Special Olympics. I think my involvement with United Ability is a crucial stepping-stone to get to that point. A lot of the individuals I work with at United Ability are on the mental spectrum and we’ve introduced adaptive golf in to some of the programming there. We are very close to making it a Paralympic sport it’s just hard to make moves – it’s all about meeting the right standards and having a governing body of rules that is fair to all disabilities. It’s a work in progress for sure, but it’s cool to meet people along the way who have similar goals and want to see it through.
When you think about your time as a PGA Professional what part about your job do you find to be the most important?
CB: Like I said, I think it goes back to being involved with junior golf and developing the next generation. To me, it is the most pure form of the game as far as enjoyment goes, and it also determines the future of our game. I remember the feeling when I was younger and I want to provide a similar atmosphere for kids who enjoy the game now.
What excites you the most about the industry?
CB: I think golf is growing. You have to factor in how the game is getting more competitive especially at the professional level. Also I’m a firm believer in the “Tiger Woods effect.” I truly think he moves the needle in terms of interest and popularity of our sport. In my opinion, there isn’t another athlete on this planet that does the same thing.
How do you define success?
CB: I would say happiness. I would rather go home after a twelve-hour shift and four of those hours be working with juniors and challenging myself there than work for six or seven hours and sit behind the counter the whole time. I think there always needs to be a sense of purpose behind what you do, and for me, it gives me the most happiness when I feel like I’ve gotten close to that line of pushing myself.
What inspires you the most?
CB: I get the most motivation seeing other athletes being in the their prime at what they do – whether that’s on a professional level or watching one of my teammates achieve something great on the slopes. Internally, I have always had a drive that probably stemmed from my brothers and I growing up and always competing against each other. I hated not being good at things so I’ve always been on this relentless pursuit of figuring out how to make it happen. I know that there is always a way for me to compete at something I just have to find it – it’s a fun challenge.
What do you think is the most important attribute a PGA Professional can have?
CB: Enthusiasm! Energy in your work is so important. I just think of Eric [Eshleman] and how he treats the membership here. You have to be excited when someone walks through those doors, and when you’re excited you naturally want to learn more and grow in that position. It’s so easy to get monotonous these days when you’re doing the same thing year in and year out so you have to get creative to stay in that mindset.
If you weren’t a golf professional what do you think you would be?
CB: I have always loved math and had a curiosity for space so I think I would want to be an astronaut.
ABOUT THE ALABAMA – NW FLORIDA PGA 50TH ANNIVERSARY
The Alabama – NW Florida PGA Board and Staff is excited to commemorate the Section’s 50th Anniversary with the PGA of America! In celebration of this year, the Section is launching a campaign focused on highlighting PGA Professionals and Associates who are driving the game forward in the state of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The campaign will be headlined by a series of articles and interviews centered around PGA Professionals and Associates who are willing to share their “golf testimony” – or in other words – answering the question, “What does the game of golf mean to you personally?” Learn More 〉