Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
As a golf pro, Chris Carter would like to dispel two common myths: No, he doesn’t fraternize with Tiger Woods, and believe it or not, he doesn’t play golf seven days a week. Carter, head PGA professional (Professional Golfers Association) at Hillview Golf Course in North Reading, is so busy managing day-to-day operations that his own golf game often gets pushed aside.
“Playing golf is a huge part of becoming a pro, but unfortunately, once you’re in the golf management business, the majority of us do play less,” said Carter, 36, who nevertheless still scores in the top 12 for New England PGA professionals based on his tournament rankings.
Although the golfing industry continues to putt through the recession with declining memberships and sales, the unemployment rate for PGA professionals like Carter is less than 4 percent. For Carter, working around the golf course is the only job he’s ever known. Raised in Lynn, just down the street from a golf course, as a teen he cleaned golf carts, picked up trash, and worked the counter, while practicing on the greens every chance he could.
“I fell in love with the game and business of golf,” said Carter, who started playing at 10 years old. Today, in addition to being a golf pro at Hillview, Carter operates several municipal golf courses through his company, Golf Facilities Management Inc.
“You know the saying,” said Carter. “A bad day on golf course beats a good day at work any day. I love working with golfers. We are very passionate about hitting a little golf ball around on 200 manicured acres.”
Q: What goes into your typical day as a PGA pro?
A: I run a golf course, sell equipment, manage the facility, and do a lot of teaching. A golf pro wears many different hats, which means that during the season, I can be working up to 80 hour weeks. I love playing, but unless you win the Masters, this won’t pay the mortgage.
Q: How did you become a PGA professional?
A: On average, it takes about six years to complete the PGA program, which includes an apprenticeship, and written and practical testing. There is a lot more bookwork than people realize. I was very motivated to get through the process as quickly as possible, and turned pro in July 1996, completing the program in about three years. I was a head pro at age 23, and one of the youngest in the nation at the time.
Q: When you first decided to get into the golfing industry, what was the biggest obstacle you faced?
A: Being from New England, golf is a seasonal business. To fulfill the PGA apprenticeship, you need to be employed full-time, so come November, I’d get in my car and drive to south Florida, and work anywhere from four to six months to keep the apprenticeship going and make a paycheck.
Q: You teach a lot of students. What do they typically have difficulty with?
A: Slicing the golf ball. If they don’t grip the club correctly, it swings the wrong way. Ninety percent of golfers slice or curve the golf ball which puts an unintentional curve on it.
Q: Are you a gearhead?
A: No, I’ve play with the same set of clubs for years, but recently my golf bag was stolen from the shop. The police found the abandoned golf bag – with no clubs – on the side of 495, so I need to get a new set.
Q: What’s your favorite club?
A: The sand wedge, because it allows you to hit it close and make a birdie on the hole.