PGA Golf pro Tom Ellis would like to clarify some common misconceptions about his occupation. No, you won’t see him playing in major tours on TV, and he doesn’t even play golf every day. Managing the day-to-day operations at the Brookline’s Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course leaves him with little time to focus on his own game – he’s busy conducting tournaments, teaching clinics, ordering merchandise for the golf shop, overseeing staff, and numerous other duties. Ellis spoke to Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about his role as head Golf Professional at Brookline Golf Course and his goal of attracting more millennials to the course.
I think there is a golf generation gap with younger kids playing a lot while growing up, then going to college and hanging up their golf clubs. And with more than 100 colleges and universities in a 30-mile radius, I recognize the need to attract this age group to the course. This year, Brookline will have more than 5,000 rounds by millennials, or more than 10 percent of total golf revenues. If you were to stop by on a Saturday or Sunday, you would see 30-40 rounds from this demographic. They pack the tee sheet because the course offers a relaxed dress code and fun environment. Brookline G.C. offers weekday 18-hole student rates at any time for only $22, which is a 25 percent discount. By comparison, the national median greens fee for 18 holes is $26. We have next gen golf programs like a three-hole golf scramble, where players can get some instruction and proper technique and get comfortable before having to play nine or 18 holes. One of our challenges is that we are owned and operated by the town of Brookline. We are a self-sustaining entity and not funded by tax-payer dollars but based solely on our revenues. Our golf course is extremely fair, meaning it’s great course for beginners but with its many water hazards – lots of creeks that dissect the holes – also a great test for the experienced golfer. I myself started playing golf at age 5, then went onto to play on the golf team and work at a local country club outside of Pittsburgh. I remember looking at the head golf professional at the time and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I was an accomplished player but more interested in understanding the business side of golf operations. Today, as I’m running the golf course, I need to check on everything from ordering new pin flags to readying the golf carts for tournaments. I also work with the course superintendent to make sure there’s no excessive wear and tear on the greens; and the course starters and rangers to make sure they are directing players at appropriate times. I give a few lessons every day. My main piece of advice to students is: Don’t hit ‘at’ the ball – hit ‘through’ the ball. Golf is a very complex game so it’s easy to get information overload. Just keep it simple.”