Director of Golf, Lyman Orchards Golf Club
Current position: Director of Golf, Lyman Orchards Golf Club, Middlefield, Connecticut.
Previous position: PGA Golf Professional, The Hartford Golf Club, Hartford, Connecticut.
Years as a PGA Professional: 14.
Top achievements / honors: U.S. Kids Top 50 Coach In World (2020, 2022); GRAA Growth of the Game Award (2020, 2021, 2022); PGA Jr. League #Gamechanger Award (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022).
What app is a must-have on your phone? USchedule. I am nothing without organization.
What book(s) would you recommend? "The ABC's of Golf," by Susan Greene
What podcast(s) would you recommend? "Bunker Banter -- Connecticut PGA Podcast." Talk about Connecticut PGA Section activities and local sports.
Who is your favorite golfer? Tiger Woods.
What is your most memorable round of golf? Caddying for my PGA colleague in 2022 as he competed in the final pairing to qualify for The Travelers Championship.
The First Call: What made you want to pursue a career in golf?
John Dipollina: Ever since I was a little boy I've been obsessed with sports. A career in sports was something I dreamed of throughout high school and college. The opportunity arose in 2004 to work as an assistant and I knew from day one that this career path was what I was born to do.
TFC: What is your favorite instructional tip to share with a golfer?
JD: Work on the short game all the time. You want to be the type of golfer who gets better as you get closer to the hole. If you have a tidy short game then you can always score. Hitting the driver well doesn't always equate to lower scores, great short games always do.
TFC: What advice do you have for someone considering a career in golf?
JD: There will not be one day in your career where you wake up in the morning and despise the fact that you are on your way to work. Working in golf is a challenge, but something I look forward to each and every morning.
TFC: What is the best advice you have received on your career path?
JD: Get involved with your local PGA section. I started as a vice president at-large with the assistants association, took part in the junior golf committee and then ran for the board. After serving four years on the board (one as VP at-large), I decided to run for secretary. The education I've received and the networking skills I have developed are not something you can get from reading books. They skills are nourished from getting involved.
TFC: Is there a particular area of your job that you find most rewarding?
JD: PGA Jr. League has changed my career. A program that I first ran in 2015 (by the suggestion from another PGA professional) has allowed me to not only change my career for the better, but introduce the game to a countless number of juniors and families during the past seven years. The family experience generated from a PGA Jr. League game day has competition, excitement, teamwork and, most important, family. To see parents, grandparents and siblings walk alongside their little boys and girls who are playing is an amazing site. To see the juniors grow as golfers and come back year after year has been rewarding to my career.
TFC: What is one challenge you currently see in the industry? Thoughts on how to address it?
JD: Attracting quality candidates to the business of golf and having the ability to reward those individuals for being tremendous employees/professionals.
There needs to be a proverbial "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" like there was prior in the business. I saw golf professionals own their own shops, own the cart concession, get a financial stake in outside tournaments and be encouraged to play golf. Those revenue streams have dried up for one reason or another. If I was a young man again I'd have to ask myself whether I can afford to grind it out for x amount of years at a smaller salary in order to make a much larger one in my 30s and 40s. If the younger staff could see that the leader had a piece of those revenue streams, then it would give that young professional more motivation to grind it out and put in the hours that it would take to eventually make it.
TFC: Do you have a preferred style or philosophy for teaching golf?
JD: Less is more. I let the student warm up and I'll not only watch, but have Trackman set up. I'll ask the student questions about their game/swing to gage how much they know. After 15 swings I look at the averages and use what I have seen with my eye to make adjustments going forward ... one at a time.
Sometimes all we accomplish is one item. Sometimes we can accomplish multiple items. It is all based on how the student learns and how fast they can retain the information presented.
TFC: Where is there room for growth within the industry?
JD: If we had more female professionals we'd have more females playing. What comes first? It's the chicken or the egg issue.
I am fortunate to surround myself with three LPGA professionals, a female golf shop manager, as well as a female assistant GM. These ladies are exceptional at what they individually do in their career lanes and have attracted women to our course. The recipe for their success is not complicated. They have passion for the golf industry and that seeps into our students and our guests.
We, as an industry, need to start somewhere, so I challenge all golf professionals and general managers to specifically recruit ladies to work in their management roles and to be their teaching professionals. If women see other women in these roles, then it will give the industry the opportunity to grow in this lane. Women's college basketball is the perfect comparison as it has reached new heights nationally.
TFC: When you look at your career, in what area(s) do you believe you have evolved for the better? And how so?
JD: Teaching women. I abandoned all I learned about teaching women specifically upon my arrival to Lyman Orchards. I have the chance to work beside Marissa Kulig Crow, LPGA Teacher/Professional of the Year for 2021 and 2022. The manner in which she teaches is a 180-degree reversal of how I taught. She goes super slow, gets to know the students in a clinic style event and makes them feel comfortable with the facility. The golf actually comes second is a change for me because in lesson one I'd have the student hitting balls five minutes in. With Marissa, they are part of a 75-minute session and never hit one ball.
This understanding of specifically how a beginner woman likes to learn the game has been transformational and has leaked into other areas of my teaching as well as training of new employees.
TFC: How does being a PGA Professional add value to your brand?
JD: Credibility. We are the leaders in the game of golf. We are certified to do it all in the way an electrician, plumber or HVAC is certified by the state that they live in. I always think about all of the items listed on the PGA One Badge Campaign to reiterate all we do. There are too many to mention here, but the list can keep growing with the constant addition of technology to the business.