By: Hayden Lewis, PGA
In Celebration of the Alabama-NW Florida PGA’s 50th Anniversary
ALEXANDER CITY, AL (June 4, 2019) — We’ve all heard the old saying: “You’re a product of the environment you grew up in.” Jesse Grimes grew up in Saint Stephens, Alabama – a small town about sixty-five miles north of Mobile. It’s population – a little under five-hundred according to the latest U.S Census. “Barely big enough for a stoplight,” says Grimes. Jesse grew up playing Little League Baseball until he was about ten years old. His father would be the one who introduced him to golf by letting him hit golf balls back and forth across their yard. “We had about a hundred yards to work with so it was always fun to go out and hit wedge shots back and forth with him.”
Grimes explains how he fell in love with the game this way and decided to play competitively, “The course I would play at was an absolute dirt track so there wasn’t ever much practicing. It was more of just showing up to events with what I had and making the most of it.” Growing up on Junior Tours around the Alabama-NW Florida Section and playing throughout high school, Grimes’ father introduced him to the PGA Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University. “Truthfully, going in to it, I had no clue what it was – all I knew is that it was golf related, and that was enough for me.”
It becomes apparent rather quickly after talking with Grimes how his passion and love for the game is what drives him. Humble and eager to learn, Grimes, now a Senior in Mississippi State University’s PGA Golf Management Program, is always seeking the next opportunity to develop himself as a future PGA Professional. It is both reassuring and inspiring to see future leaders of the industry taking on big-time projects that not only help build up their respective facilities, but also the game of golf. They say you’re a product of the environment you grew up in – there’s definitely more gray area than meets the eye in that statement when it comes to Jesse Grimes. This is where we pick up the conversation with Jesse at Willow Point Golf & Country Club where he is completing his seven-month internship as a PGA Golf Management Student:
How do you think your background in golf shapes the way you view the industry today?
JG: It helps me see the bigger picture. You go to areas in our Section like Birmingham or Mobile and kids have places everywhere to learn the game. You think to yourself ‘Oh, every kid has the same opportunity to play golf,’ but that’s just not true. There are so many kids that don’t know about golf, let alone, know where to learn the game. I think it gives me the perspective of looking out for the little guy – the kids who don’t come from wealthy families or the kids that have to work their way up from nothing – there’s a lot more to it than most people think.
What do you think is one of the biggest issues we face as an industry today?
JG: Learning how to diversify the game is something we as an industry need to learn to tackle. We can’t lie anymore about the stigmas golf presents – it’s real and it’s affecting the way people view our sport and the industry. I think we need to do a better job of combating those “assumptions” about golf and make it a game for everyone.
What do you think excites you the most about the industry?
JG: I think just the opportunities that are still out there is what excites me. There are a lot of people who like to talk all doom and gloom about how the industry isn’t going anywhere, but the potential we have as PGA Professionals is greatly untapped. There is so much room for growth and personally I think our generation is coming in at the right time and I’m excited to see what’s to come!
What does a typical workday look like for you here at Willow Point?
JG: It can vary, of course there are days where you will have to be a cart guy and then there are days where you will have to be a shop guy. While the cart barn isn’t the most glamorous place to be, I love it because you get to see everybody! I love getting to talk with all of the members because that’s the biggest way you can make an impact on someone. It’s nice because Matt, our Director [of Golf], has a very different point of view in the way he wants to handle interns. He welcomes you in and he wants you to be a part the team and be fully involved. I’ve been very happy and humbled to be here because I know it could very easily be a different situation.
What about the program at Mississippi State do you think has best prepared you to be a PGA Professional?
JG: Right off the bat, I would say the one thing that helped prepare me the most was the seriousness that the faculty brought to the table – I mean our Director, Jeff [Adkerson], put the fear of God in us! I say that lightheartedly looking back, but you need that as a freshman coming in to college. The staff as a whole is incredible, and I think it’s because of them that we do see so many successful students coming out of our program. They want to see you succeed and they genuinely care about helping you be prepared for that first job you take out of college. You can’t ask for much more in my opinion.
What do you think is the most important attribute a PGA Professional can have?
JG: Personality. Even if you can’t teach or you can’t play, as long as you’re awesome with people and you can help them have a good time that’s all that matters. Anyone can learn how to do an invoice or run a tournament, but if you don’t have a personality I think it would be hard to get people behind you – especially in a Head Professional or Director of Golf position. If you can show people you’re there to be a friend to them they will want to invest back in you.
What inspires you the most?
JG: I think seeing other people’s success is what inspires me the most. It inspires me to see people work their tail off, show out and set themselves apart. I’m a firm believer that if you show people your work ethic and you’re passionate about what you do you can be successful in anything! It inspires me to know that you can always be better than you were the day before.
How does the Section’s 50thAnniversary resonate with you?
JG: It’s funny because I didn’t have a clue what the Section was or what any of that meant when I was growing up playing golf. Looking at it all now I think it shows a continued commitment to grow the game in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Fifty years is a long time, and I think it’s cool to see how far the game has come. Obviously I don’t know what the game or the industry was like back then, but I’m thankful for the way it is today!
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 〉