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For Joe Hughes, Golf has Been a Passion Since Childhood

by on June 24, 2012 8:53 AM

Think back to when you were 12 years old. Did you have any idea of what you wanted to do with your life?

Most children, at this time of the year, were just glad school was out for the summer and that meant lots of sandlot baseball to be played or a trip to the local swimming hole. No more books. No more teachers dirty looks. Or so the song goes.

Seriously, did anyone really think of what future plans lay ahead in life when you were 12 and dreaming of summer plans?

Well, if you were in the Clarks Summit area, around Joe Hughes Jr., and his wife, Diane, you would have a hard time finding anyone with an inkling of what the future held for their two children, Joe and daughter Heather.

It’s doubtful that Joe Jr., and Diane, owners of the Dalton Country Store for over 20 years, a small grocery store in Dalton, Pa., would ever have imagined what career paths their two children would take. Would anyone?

The couple’s youngest, Heather, is a funeral director in King of Prussia, while the son, who fell in love with the game of golf at age 6, is now the general manager and PGA head golf professional at the Penn State Golf Courses.

“I started playing golf when I was six, “ explained Hughes. “My Dad (Joe Jr.) played in a work league in Clarks Summit and I would tag along and would go to the range and tried to learn the game. I started playing junior golf at age 12, was a four-year starter in high school at Abington Heights and missed the PIAA state tournament in 1994 by a stroke.”

It was Hughes’ uncle, John Mlynarski, who is the head golf professional at Harbourtowne Resort and Country Club in St. Michaels, Md., that solidified the game that would become his life profession.

“I worked for my uncle one summer and just thought that working at a golf resort was just awesome,” Hughes said. “During my days in the Penn State PGM (Professional Golf Management), I did an internship at Glenmaura in Moosic which was one of the Nationwide Tour stops. I then did a six-month internship under previous golf professional Doug Wert.”

Wert is now the general manager/director of Instruction, Sportz Skillz, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Hughes, a 2001 graduate of the PSU PGM program, spent a year at Shannon Country Club near Pittsburgh before joining the Penn State staff as the head PGA golf professional in August 2002.

The Penn State Professional Golf Management option, is a PGA-accredited program, that helps prospective students prepare for careers in the golf industry and is endorsed by the Professional Golfer's Association of America allowing students to fast track to full PGA membership while obtaining an undergraduate degree from Penn State. There are only 20 schools in the country that sponsor PGM programs.

Now 35 and in his 10th year as the general manager and head golf professional, Hughes is putting his PGM degree to good use as the university courses are the only facility in the Centre Region with 36 holes of play.

But while that sounds intriguing to golfers, having two courses, aptly named Blue and White, a practice facility and a driving range, creates some concerns that the other area golf professionals would love to have.

“It’s a concern that we are happy to have,” Hughes said. “Generally speaking having 36 holes for play is nice and with two courses we are only closed on average seven days of the year. We are able to handle major golf tournaments like the Coaches vs. Cancer, Mount Nittany Medical Center event, the AJGA event, the Hawbaker Charity event, U.S. Amateur qualifier, among several others.

“Having two courses allows us to have an event on one and have the other course available for the general public,” added Hughes.

“And with an active membership, it’s important to make sure there is a place for them to play. So seven days that we are closed to the public shouldn’t be that major a factor as compared to other courses. It’s great for the members and the general walk-up golfers that know there is usually any time of the week they would be able to play on our courses."

Then again, any large event that plays the Blue and White courses creates its own set of problems with over 300 events being played on the Penn State courses. The golf course uses any outing over 12 golfers as an event, which is hosted by the general public and alumni.

“That’s why it’s great to have Steve (Eskey) on board to take care of all these events,” said of Eskey, only one step away from getting his PGA card. “He may not have the playing ability (PAT tested is one of the steps used to become a PGA professional) but he has everything else that’s required of a PGA professional. So he’s a great asset here working with all the different charities. There will be nights where we set on the carious charities’ committees, I’m on three to four while Steve is involved with 10 to 12 so those are things that are outside of your normal work schedule no doubt it.

“One other thing is that we work with the Penn State staff and are involved with kinesiology classes, the PGM program, so a lot of my time is not spent at my desk,” Hughes explained. “You may be across the street (Atherton) helping the University. We work with Penn State athletics, so there is a lot to get involved with here at Pen State especially being involved with athletics.”

Which makes a difference from other Centre Region golf courses when it comes to managing the two courses as well as the number of personnel needed to management as major department within the University.

“From a management standpoint sometimes it’s hard to cover,” said Hughes. “We are fortunate that we have the manpower that is available from the university students and from retirees, but scheduling students with classes and all sometimes is a challenge. On the other hand, being a university facility allows us the resources from turf management and the PGM program as compared to a private course where you are on your own.”

Being the person running the show sometimes has some drawbacks, especially now that he and wife Dayna have a 2-year old daughter Claire, and makes for some long days.

“We handle nearly 60,000 rounds of golf on the two courses and I will put in 60-70 hour weeks during the season,” explained Hughes. “But that’s not as bad as other PGA professionals who are working 80-90 hour weeks. I’m fortunate because we are a university facility, and thus have more benefits than other pros. I’ve played maybe six or seven rounds of golf so far this season which is around par for most golf professionals in the Centre Region.

“People get into this profession for the love of the game,” added Hughes. “And I love the management aspect of the position. I also love to teach but my playing time is limited with my position as general manager.”

John covers sports for the Gazette.
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