A golfer turned PGA Professional turned college professor, whether in the classroom or on the golf course, AC Cox demonstrates his ability to lead, connect and pave the way for others to turn their passions into careers.
By Ashley “AC” Cox, PGA
Special to NNPA Newswire
I was born and raised in Pass Christian, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast, about an hour from New Orleans. My grandfather was introduced to the game as a teenager in Mississippi when he started caddying at a local country club. As was typical with most caddies in the 1920s, he learned the game from being around the golfers at the club and the opportunity to play the course on caddy play days. My grandfather taught his five sons to play the game, and they all became accomplished golfers. He gave me my first golf club (which I still have) when I was 10, and I’ve been playing the game ever since.
The aspect of the game that makes me continue to return is the challenge of conquering the unconquerable. As said in the movie Tin Cup, “perfection is unattainable,” and I think this is what motivates me.
I like the dynamic of golf being an individual game played with others, and I appreciate the value of spending time alone while being with others. One bonus to the covid pandemic is that it brought me back to walking when I play, something that I missed for years.
During my senior year in high school, a recruiter from Mississippi State University visited our campus and introduced me to the PGA Golf Management University Program. The program looked to be a good fit, given I was the four-year captain of my high school golf team. After much deliberation, I enrolled at Miss State and majored in Professional Golf Management, where I later became its first Black graduate and the second Black PGA Golf Management University Student graduate in the country.
I was elected to PGA Membership in September 2000, while employed at a club in Michigan. As the season wound down, I returned to Miss State to pursue an MBA. While there, a position opened in a newly accredited PGA Golf Management University Program at Campbell University, and I was hired as the program’s assistant director. My responsibilities included classroom instruction within the program. However, upon completing my MBA in 2001, I began teaching undergraduate and eventually graduate marketing courses. I spent seven years with the program at Campbell, three years at N.C. State University, and three years as a trainer and recruiter at GolfTEC Corporate Headquarters. Most of my career in the golf industry has revolved around educating adult learners.
When I mention to people that I work for Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), they immediately assume that I serve as a coach for the golf team. Unfortunately, we no longer have golf as an interscholastic sport, which only adds to the confusion. However, once I explain that I was a full-time marketing professor, now the Interim Associate Dean in the Gail Miller School of Business at SLCC and an active PGA Professional, they move from confusion to intrigue.
There are similarities between both careers. Both are expected to provide superior customer service. Both are expected to be present, engaging, empathetic, sympathetic and knowledgeable. Both require a deep understanding of consumer behavior and how consumers make decisions.
The best part of my career path is that it has allowed me to work in both of my passions. The golf industry has provided me with experiences and opportunities that I may otherwise have yet to experience. At the same time, the academic classroom presents the chance to help change the lives of my students.
The business side of golf needs people with business expertise. Many concepts I share with my marketing students are relevant to the golf industry. My peer professionals in the Colorado and Utah Sections recognized this relationship and elected me to serve as a Board Member. My election in Utah makes me one of the few Black PGA Professionals to serve on the board in multiple Sections. This shows that the industry is slowly recognizing the importance of representation. And I’m grateful that I get to be a pioneer.
I love teaching golf lessons, and I am currently working with the college to build an indoor teaching facility on campus to allow me to share the game of golf with more people.
It was serendipitous that I stumbled into a career in higher education through the golf industry. I would not have had the career success I’ve experienced in academia without golf and vice versa. I believe that I have the best of both worlds.
Ashley “AC” Cox is a Class A PGA Professional, Utah PGA Section board member and an Interim Associate Dean in the Gail Miller School of Business at Salt Lake Community College.
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