Toni-Louise Naylor reflects on completing the PGA Foundation Degree

Toni-Louise Naylor reflects on completing the PGA Foundation Degree

03/07/2024

Toni-Louise Naylor recently graduated from her PGA Foundation Degree – the Wakefield Assistant Professional explains what it took to complete the three-year programme.

I have played golf since I was four so the game has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got down to 5 when I was 12, then I was scratch when I was 16. I wanted to become a Professional because I have a passion for the game and I love sharing that passion with other people. I personally feel golf is the most challenging sport in comparison to any other sport that I have played and I think that’s why it has given me the drive to continue learning and developing my knowledge of the game. 

Growing up I aspired to be a professional golfer on the tour, then I had a few injuries – I broke my wrist playing golf when I hit a tree root and the year after I broke my elbow playing rugby – so I almost dropped out of the game. Then I got back into it and got back in the Yorkshire and England squads. I turned Pro at 18 and that's when I started doing my PGA training.

I was working with Alex James at Sand Moor Golf Club and he explained that there was so much more that I could do in the game and to consider the Foundation Degree course. I had just finished doing A-level Business Studies and it seemed a good fit to go with the coaching and playing sides. I had scholarships to America when I was younger, but I had never thought of moving away as that was all a bit out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t want to move everything away from things at home so I started the PGA programme. I probably wouldn't have done the programme without Alex's guidance, I just thought that I would work in the shop and I had never thought about any sort of qualification.

How did the course structure support study time alongside work commitments?

The PGA recommend that you spend at least 10 hours per week on completing assignments alongside your role at a golfing facility. Some weeks I spent more than that, some weeks I spent a bit less depending on what was happening at work. You can manage your time quite well as you have all the deadlines so it's up to you to do it gradually or straightaway. It's just about managing your time. I found the working remotely side of it to be a refreshing change that provided me with more flexibility and a better work-life balance and the distance learning was one of my favourite parts of the course because it provided me with a refreshing change coming straight from sixth form. It allowed me to be more productive while also enjoying the comfort of working from home and, for the last year, I moved closer to home at Wakefield Golf Club so that gave me more time to practise and play more often.

How has the involvement of women in golf evolved over time?

At school I would be the only girl or even the only person to play golf but now things are changing and more girls are now playing and working in the game. I have always been quite grown up for my age, I had just turned 19 when I started the course, and I think playing golf or any sport maybe makes you more mature. You're generally playing with older people most of the time and you have to be confident as a lot of eyes are on you as you might be the only girl or one of very few. Alex Keighley was my Yorkshire coach when I was really young and seeing her as a female Head Professional at such a prestigious club as Huddersfield Golf Club definitely gave me some motivation when I started my PGA training. I think the number of female Professionals has the potential to increase in the future as more women become interested in pursuing a career in golf due to the game becoming more diverse and inclusive. 

What did you learn from the PGA Foundation Degree that you didn't expect?

Before doing the PGA Foundation Degree I thought that someone who had managed to get down to around a scratch handicap would have all the knowledge required in the golf industry. I soon realised that the PGA Foundation Degree covered the game of golf in so much more depth and I gained more knowledge than I could have ever imagined. We covered coaching, sports science, finance, business management, retailing, customer service, Rules of Golf, equipment technology, custom Fitting and tournament play. So you get a lot out of the course, for example I have never been very technical in terms of my own swing, I was always more about feel so it was quite nice to be able to understand that side of it and I now have a greater understanding of the swing which is great for my coaching. You will also learn a lot on the job, especially retailing. I have worked under three Pros who have all already qualified so learnt a lot from them. Adam Durie (Wakefield) has been great, with repairs more than anything. You never know what you’re going to come across and what you might need to fix and I've learnt a lot about how best to deal with the manufacturers. Also, there's the benefit that you’re earning and that was so important for me after leaving sixth form important that you’re earning a living - and looking to move out of home.

We had one residential per year. I only managed to get to one residential due to the ongoing pandemic, but it was so useful because it allowed me to immerse fully in the learning experience by engaging in a more practical way. This definitely provided a valuable opportunity to deepen my knowledge and understanding and it was nice to meet new people and help each other along the journey. During the other years I would say that the support was still there, probably more so, as everyone was used to dealing with each other so often online.

What are the final assessments and future opportunities after completing the PGA Foundation Degree?

At the end of each year we had a block of exams and, at the end of the third year, you do a final practical exam where you have to give a lesson. Eventually I would like do the BSc (Hons), the Foundation Degree is significant but one day I would love to be a head Professional. If anyone is thinking of a career in golf, the PGA is a fantastic stepping stone as it gives you a prestigious mark of golfing credibility with any employer. 

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