Fore! Blockinger swings toward a golf pro future

Andrew plays at The Links at Lighthouse sound golf course.

courtesy of Dan Blockinger

Andrew plays at The Links at Lighthouse sound golf course.

by Erica Blockinger, Reporter

When someone says “Golf Pro,” they probably are referencing stars like Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, or Phil Mickelson. I think of my brother Andrew Blockinger. The assistant pro at Musket Ridge in Middletown, Andrew has learned the in’s and out’s of the golf industry and is finishing his degree in business in the Professional Golf Management program.

A Class of 2015 graduate and golf team competitor, Andrew has always known his car would be a golf cart and his career would center around 18 holes.

It started with plastic clubs and selling golf balls.

Christmas 2001, Andrew gets his first real golf set.

He started when he was 19 months old with plastic clubs he received for Christmas. Our grandfather Albert Pezzuti, was the biggest advocate for him to play golf. He and Andrew could spend the whole day hitting the tiny clubs preparing him for his future in golf he didn’t even know he would have.

Andrew is mostly self taught. He didn’t have many lessons with pros: when my brother did need help, he would call and send videos to our grandfather. Not playing in any leagues or clubs before high school like most kids, Andrew still made the golf team his freshman year of high school. He didn’t play much in matches that year, but it never discouraged him from getting better. 

Andrew at his first golf match.

Dan Blockinger, Andrew’s father said, “Watching the matches were always nerve-wracking. We knew that high school golf was very competitive, and we always wanted him to play well. Sometimes Andrew would struggle in matches.”

Andrew with Coach Wolfe, and teammates.

Andrew’s coach in high school, Coach Wolfe, was a big inspiration to him. Andrew remembers Wolfe always telling the boys that “Pressure is a privilege.”

“If you’re in a pressure situation it means you’re doing something of worth or value,” said Andrew. 

We live in West Winds, a country club community. Andrew’s first “job” with golf was selling golf balls he had found around the 12th, which borders our back yard. Selling everything from golf balls, to water and snacks, the golfers on hole 12 would joke and kid around with Andrew when he asked if they wanted to buy anything.

He started working at his first golf course his sophomore year at Worthington Manor in Urbana. Working outside washing golf carts and setting up golf bags was the life for him. In junior year, Andrew worked at West Winds golf club until he left for college. West Winds offered better pay, and was in our neighborhood, so it would save time and money to get to work. 

Becoming a pro

Andrew and friend Ryan Gilmartin senior year.

Andrew is on month five of seven of his last internship.  With the changing season, he is moving south and will be working at Glenmore Country Club in Virginia so he can graduate from Coastal Carolina University. Andrew is in the Professional Golf Management program or PGM. Students in PGM graduate in December. They intern early summer freshman through junior year. In senior year, students in the program finish the last seven months of their internships. Having a total of 16 months of interning. 

Goodson Long, a family friend and Linganore Graduate of 2003, is one of Andrew’s clients. Long says, “Working with Andrew is great. He explains everything very simply and makes the learning process really easy.”

Freshman and sophomore year, Andrew worked at Lakewood Country Club In Rockville, which is a private course. He mostly worked outside learning how the outside part of a golf course runs. Andrew would wash golf carts, set up for tournaments, or set up for special member days.

But when he started at Musket Ridge his junior year, he started working on the inside, setting up tee times, entering tournament numbers, and making sure the inside of the course runs smoothly. Coming back for his longest internship during senior year, the course sees him as an assistant pro. He teaches lessons at the course and continues to teach the junior league.

What are the requirements for PGM?

Like a policeman passing a rifle test, this is just one of the several steps to become a golf pro. Along with interning, students in the PGM program have to pass a player ability test, known as the PAT. They play 36 holes (2 rounds of golf) in one day, and must get a score of 159 or lower. On the PGA’s website, it says fewer than 20% pass the test.

Students in PGM also have to attend seminars for three days, that are eight hours each day. In these seminars they continue to learn about the golf industry and everything it holds.

Why Coastal Carolina?

When Andrew was deciding on where he wanted to go, he made a list of pro’s and con’s.  Several points on why he didn’t want to go to a school that would be cold in the winter, and he didn’t want to be too far from home. Of the 20 schools in the country that offer the PGM program, only three would be contenders.

Andrew’s acceptance letter into Coastal Carolina University October 2015

The other universities couldn’t compared to Coastal Carolina’s top PGM program with notable alumni like Dustin Johnson who plays on the PGA tour. They also couldn’t compete with Coastal’s beautiful campus, with palm trees everywhere and their unique teal football field. With the school’s location in Myrtle Beach, it’s only a 25-minute drive to get some sun.

“Having the past president of the PGA as my Program Director made my choice super easy,” said Andrew.

Coastal has the perfect weather, campus, and program, and still being a little bit closer to home than most universities.

He said, “My favorite thing about going to Coastal was the atmosphere and people; the connections and friendships that I made ill have for a lifetime. You also cant beat having a school in South Carolina right next to Myrtle beach, not a bad spot.”

After graduating in December, Andrew is taking the first assistant position at Glenmore Country Club.

What is the future of golf?

“That’s my favorite question to get, and my answer is that its just the opposite. Golf is growing and not dying whatsoever. The PGA tour players are hitting the ball further, and shooting lower scores. With so many good young players its the most exciting its been in a while,” said Andrew.

Forbes article on the state of golf for 2019 talks about how golf has been played more than 600 years, and it continues to change and evolve with its players. More than  36% of the U.S population watched, or played golf  this year; and with Tiger woods winning his first major title in over 11 years it caused a mainstream media boom. Golf creates more than 2 million jobs, so its safe to say that golf won’t be going anyway anytime soon.

“This influences amateur golfers to go out and try to play like the pros, especially the junior golfers. Having professional experience with junior golfers and seeing the high demand for junior programs just convinces me its not going anywhere, the future is bright,” he added.

He backs his argument with, “In case people think it’s dying, when you have people willing to pay 30, 40, 50 grand to become a member at a golf course, and its not just the best of the best clubs, I wouldn’t consider that a dying industry.”

Andalusia golf club in California is just one example of a club with high fees. They charge $35,000 per year to become a member and $1,000+ monthly.