Tom James – ‘You have to constantly try to better yourself - the competition in all work environments is so fierce’

Tom James – ‘You have to constantly try to better yourself - the competition in all work environments is so fierce’


Career development has always been a top priority for Midland-based PGA Member Tom James, but he was always put off by The PGA’s old APAL process. Like many PGA Members, James did not like the previous, offline, admin-heavy application.

However, James was inspired to reconsider when the Association launched PGA Excel, a new, online assessment framework that enables PGA Members to demonstrate their impact, achievements and value to employers, golfers and the wider industry. He has since been awarded a new status of PGA Fellow Professional.

It felt like the PGA Excel system was a way of separating yourself from other PGA Professionals, almost like giving yourself a promotion.

- Tom James (Leicester Golf Centre) - PGA Fellow Professional

What made you want to begin your PGA Excel application?

I’ve always wanted to continually develop, no matter what it is that I’ve done - it felt like the PGA Excel system was a way of separating yourself from other PGA Professionals, almost like giving yourself a promotion really!

I started this year because I felt like I had accrued enough accomplishments over the last ten years to warrant filling out the application, whereas previously I didn’t feel like I had enough experiences to put in there.

Anything to do with growth, development and participation is useful, so anything you’re doing to bring new people into the game, retaining them in the game, feeding them into membership, things like that, and then when it’s on a greater scale, so anything you do where you have big numbers, again I think is just key.

I do these ‘Try Golf’ games where you get 300 kids turning up who don’t normally play golf. They’re big key factors in driving the game, and I work closely with other governing bodies like The Golf Foundation and South Leicestershire School Sports Partnership, where I help deliver it in schools initially and then we’ve brought the schools to us.

How important is personal development to you?

I think it’s imperative! You have to constantly try to better yourself - the competition in all work environments is so fierce! If you don’t constantly aim to improve your personal development you just become stale and demotivated, and if you don’t keep up with the times, you get left behind.

What did you make to the new online PGA Excel process? How much easier is the new process compared to the old APAL system?

It’s so easy to navigate! The fact that it’s online, you’re able to login from your phone, your iPad, anything, and save whatever changes you’re making - it makes the process much more time-efficient on the whole.

I printed one of the APAL forms off a few years ago but I never actually filled it in. The actual content is similar, but the fact it’s now online means in the evenings I can just sit with a cup of tea, get the iPad out, log in, do 20 minutes and save it. You can just take it with you and do it, rather than having to be fixed with your pen and paper at a point.

If you just do 20 minutes a night, before you know it in a couple of months you’ve done the whole process rather than having to try to write the whole thing out in two days.

If you look at that ordeal task and think ‘I’m going to write 20 pages,’ it’s like trying to do your dissertation in two nights, which is never going to happen!

What does it mean to you to be awarded Fellow Professional status?

I applied for ‘Advanced’ status because you fill out the forms and say what you’re applying for, so I thought that my accomplishments were the level I was aiming for, but naively I didn’t know where I sat really - when the email came through I was massively elated! I feel validation for all the hard work I’ve put in, to get that was just so rewarding! It sounds cheesy, but to be able to have PGA Fellow Professional stitched on my polos on a daily basis - I’m just awesomely proud to have that on there! People get that added value from you now. They think: ‘oh I’m going to go and see Tom. He’s a PGA Fellow Professional, not just your local pro at the driving range’.

Will you continue your PGA Excel journey in the future?

Definitely! I’ll always continue to try and develop myself as a coach in The PGA. I think trying to get to the next level, I might be looking at five or ten years and then another application because I’ll feel like I’ve achieved enough then to warrant putting one in.

I think you’ve got certain things that you need to hit, so for the next one I feel like I’ll have to have made a great impact in the game. So, like other Advanced Fellow Professionals, my boss for example is an Advanced Fellow - he’s built a golf centre from scratch! I feel like you have to make a significant impact on the game like that to get to the next level.

What would you say to other PGA Members to encourage them to start their PGA Excel journey?

I’d tell them not to put it off! Just start the application, do five minutes on it, save it and then the next day do five minutes, save it and keep repeating that process until it’s complete, like you’re doing bitesize chunks rather than the daunting task of trying to do it all in two weeks. Once you’ve done the first five minutes, you’ll think, ‘oh that wasn’t daunting, I’ll do five more… I‘ll just complete the section’ - you just have to do it in bitesize chunks.

PGA Members are encouraged to start their PGA Excel journey today. This new framework enables you to demonstrate your impact and achievement to employers, golfers and the wider industry and move up through the designations.

CLICK HERE to begin your PGA Excel journey.


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