In Celebration of the Alabama – NW Florida PGA’s 50th Anniversary
By: Hayden Lewis, PGA
Vestavia Hills, AL (February 28, 2019) – The daughter of a PGA Professional, Beth Grace has been around the game of golf from a very young age. She’s had a golf club in her hand since she was around three years old and hasn’t looked back since. Born in Tampa, Florida, Grace recalls how she was always at the club where her father served as the Head Golf Professional. “As a little girl I would basically follow him around the golf course, play in the bunkers and get excited about driving around in the golf cars – I was essentially born and raised at a golf course!” Grace fell in love with the game very early on and discovered a passion in playing and competing in the sport.
With her father’s full support, Grace found success quickly competing in golf and eventually went on to have lucrative junior golf, collegiate and early professional careers – the 1997 U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion, a 2-time USA Curtis Cup Participant, 2-Time All American at Duke University, and the 2002 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year just to name a few accolades.
While Grace found success early on in her playing career, the wear and tear of a life on Tour caught up with her and began to take a toll on her personally and emotionally. After about three years on Tour, Grace began to lose sight of the balance in her life. “I became so obsessed with trying different things or trying a new coach and just got lost – I was burned-out and it was too much for me at the time.” After seven years on Tour, Grace decided to step away and take a break from what she thought would be her career path. Thanks to a support system comprised of her family and close friends, Grace found herself back home in Tampa. She decided to finish up her degree in Elementary Education and work part-time at a local golf club.
It was at this club where she explains how her second career began. Within a year after leaving the Tour, Grace met her husband and found a new path in the industry – serving those who share a passion for the game she fell in love with as a little girl. This is where we pick up the conversation from Old Overton Club just outside of Birmingham where Grace currently serves as the PGA Assistant Golf Professional and Merchandiser, and she couldn’t be happier.
What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned about yourself during your time on Tour?
BG: For me, I know balance is so important and that’s ultimately what was missing. I didn’t have something else to consume my mind and I think that’s why I got burned-out [from the LPGA Tour]. The job that I am in now is perfect for me because I love being able to have my time at work and then be able to come home to my daughter and my husband, and have that life at home. It’s all about doing my best in this role or that role – obviously I wear a few different hats, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think one of the biggest truths I’ve learned is realizing how the really bad stuff that comes at you in life can actually be the biggest blessings. Whenever you’re kicked down, you have to figure out how you’re going to be stronger and learn from those life lessons.
Do you think a person has to hit “rock bottom” for them to realize that?
BG: I think everyone has their own experiences so I can’t say for sure. For me, I don’t know what “rock bottom,” whether I’ve hit it or not, actually looks like. I think it’s just tests – we get tested every day we wake up. I look at it as, when we go through life, we figure out if this is the test where you find a solution to change a habit or maybe it’s more of a momentous or directional change in one’s life. While leaving the Tour was one of the scariest decisions of my life I don’t think I have personally ever hit a “rock bottom.” It’s all about perspective.
Was there a defining moment where you decided to leave the Tour or was it a build-up of these feelings?
BG: It was definitely building up, but it was gradual. There would be weeks where I felt like I had my groove back, but in the end I was not healthy mentally or emtionally – I was not happy. Even though I was trying to play golf to be happy I just knew, in the long run, it wasn’t going to be the answer.
So you leave the Tour and move back to Tampa, can you tell me about that time after you left the Tour?
BG: I decided to go back to school and finish getting my degree. During this time I also got a part-time job at Heritage Harbor Golf Club which is where I also met my husband, Andy!
How does that story go?
BG: He would come out to the club every couple months and play golf with a buddy – he was so nice and courteous; there was just something about him. We instantly hit it off and he invited me to play golf one day with him and the rest is history. It was pretty close to love at first sight. After we got married we had our daughter, Courtney, about a year later. I started a new job at Cypress Run Golf Club and was able to work my way up to serve as the Head Professional there. Eventually, Andy’s job moved us up here to Birmingham, and even though I loved my job at Cypress Run I just knew I had to stay with my family.
What did you do once you got to Birmingham?
BG: I had heard they were opening up a new Top Golf location in town and I ended up working as the Director of Instruction for about nine months once we got here. I loved working there and really enjoyed getting to know the management. I also loved seeing how much of an influence the company has on our golf world – it’s reaching a whole new market that I think our industry needs. With all that said, I knew it wasn’t a forever job for me because I wanted to eventually get back to the green grass side where my roots were. I reached out to Todd McCorkle here at Old Overton. One thing led to another and here we are!
Even though you have only been here for a few months what does a typical day look like for you here at Old Overton?
BG: I really love it here! It really is the perfect balance of a job for me right now – between family and working. I will be helping with some teaching and we want to start building some of the women’s programming out here because it is a little bit of an undiscovered part of the operation. I also will be doing most of the merchandising within the shop so I am really excited about that as well. I was very fortunate to know Todd before coming to Birmingham, and I’m thankful we were able to reconnect and make something work for me here.
How do you think your golf story impacts the way you view the industry today?
BG: I think I just have a deep appreciation for it. Coming from a family with a father who was a PGA Professional. He was so passionate and had so much pride in it – unfortunately he passed away when I was only fourteen. He gave me a lot of inspiration for so many years even when I was playing on Tour. It has made me appreciate what being a PGA Professional means, how you serve your community and being a role model for other people.
How has being a PGA Professional elevated your career?
BG: It’s a great responsibility to conduct yourself as a PGA Professional should, and I take great pride in that. I think the last few positions I’ve been in I would not have gotten if I weren’t a PGA Member. It’s quite a process to get the certification and if you want to be the best in your area of work it’s a no-brainer to go through that process.
What inspires you?
BG: For me, I don’t think I’m finished being educated. I find inspiration in continuing to better myself – and now I have a family so that is my other inspiration. I have to ask myself, “How do I want my daughter to view me? How can I tell her to do the right things and be a role model for her?”
What advice would you give girls today who want to get involved in the industry or perhaps play competitively?
BG: I would say to not feel like you’re defined by what you shoot or what people think of you. In this life, you’re going to have so many ups and so many downs and that’s just part of it – you just have to roll with what you’re dealt. Give everything your all, but also know that everyone is different in how they succeed – it’s up to you to figure out what works to create your own version of success.
How do you define success?
BG: I think happiness and knowing that you did the best you can – putting my head to the pillow at the end of the day knowing that I can answer to those questions would be my own version of success.
What do you hope the next generation of PGA Professionals gets right?
BG: I hope they keep being innovative. Taking chances and listening to your dreams and desires is something I think our industry needs. It’s okay for something to look silly at first or for someone to tell you no, but if it’s going to (in the long run) help the industry and grow the game you have to trust your gut in that.
ABOUT THE ALABAMA – NW FLORIDA PGA’s 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
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?”