SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Canadian pro golfers use master's degrees for a competitive edge

MINOT, N.D. – For more people, the first thought associated with the term “professional golfer” is a vision of Tiger Woods or the Masters.

But the reality is most golf professionals spend more time navigating the business side of running a club than they do navigating fairways.

For three Canadian golf professionals, Bryce Halverson, Samuel Kirkness, and Stephen Yanitski, earning a master’s degree in sports management was a strategic decision to earn a competitive edge on the business side of golf.

“It is very uncommon for golf professionals to have a master’s degree. Within Alberta, there are probably, now, only four total,” Kirkness said. “Many professionals have some type of business education, but having a master’s is something very few in our industry can hang their hat on.”

“We all strive to be leaders in sport and strive to obtain high-level management positions within the golf industry,” added Halverson. “Leadership, budgeting, and an understanding of strategic planning are all important aspects of our current and future positions. I would not say having a master’s is commonplace within the golf industry, and hopefully, this will give us an edge in future job applications along with our experience.”

All three are current golf pros at clubs around the greater Calgary, Alberta, area.

Yanitski earned his PGA of Canada Class A Professional in 2019 and was the PGA of Canada and PGA of Alberta Class A Professional of the Year in 2024. He is currently the Assistant Professional at Valley Ridge Golf Club. Kirkness, who earned his PGA of Canada Class A Professional in 2016, is the Head Professional at Inglewood Golf & Curling Club. He was named the PGA of Canada and PGA of Alberta Professional of the Year in 2019 and most recently earned the PGA of Alberta Professional Development Award in 2022. Halverson, who was named PGA of Alberta Apprentice Golf Professional of the Year in 2020, is currently an Associate Professional at Carmoney Golf Club. He and Yanitski worked at Valley Ridge and coached together at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

While they understand many have preconceived and sometimes false ideas of their profession, they also know the significant impact they can make in the golf industry.

“It has to first be stated that there are some incredibly fun days as a golf professional — times spent on the golf course, at industry networking events, sharing your passion for the game in a lesson setting, being the first to see and use the latest equipment and apparel, the list goes on,” Yanitski said. “But these experiences are more a by-product of the blood, sweat, and tears of the role as a club professional. There are ungodly hours worked on a daily, weekly, and monthly scale, and it is one of the most customer-service-intensive environments to work in. Keep in mind that we are responsible for programming for and hosting thousands of people each year as they visit our facilities to enjoy the game that shapes our personal and professional identities. It is a heavy responsibility to consistently deliver quality and value, but a source of honor and pride.”

Kirkness learned of the program first and had some knowledge of Minot State prior to enrolling, as he grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan. The three had conversations multiple times about many possibilities before finally making the decision to choose MSU.

“Samuel learned about the program first, after doing his research on institutions and trying to find a program that was fully online,” Halverson said. “After Stephen and I had multiple discussions contrasting the content of both programs, we decided that we would seek out a program which would align more closely with our management roles within the golf industry. The goal was simple, find a sports-oriented business program which we could do 100% remote and online." 

The trio enrolled in MSU’s online master’s program after weighing options such as pursuing an MBA or other online programs. As young golf professionals starting in the business, they felt the sports management program at Minot State fit their needs.

“When evaluating different sport-based graduate programs across Canada and the US, the program stood out in its subject matter, program and coursework leads and instructors, and flexibility for those in our position who value being able to complete coursework while balancing our professional lives,” Yanitski said. “This program has fantastic value between its accreditation, content learned, and affordability.”

The idea of a fully online environment, not a traditional classroom setting, wasn’t daunting and fit into their professional lifestyle.

“I had previous experience with some online classes in my undergrad; this made the transition going back to school feel familiar, and with good self-discipline, the workload was manageable,” Kirkness said. “MSU classes felt small enough that you got to know all your classmates and the professors were always there with any questions or concerns I had.”

“It wasn't as difficult as I knew it was something I always wanted to do. The process to go back took a little bit of getting used to — more early mornings and late evenings spent in front of the computer screen; however, I think all master’s students deal with time management,” Halverson added. “Due to a busy full-time work schedule along with several other work-related extracurricular activities, the ability to work online and during the times that suited me best was a huge positive to ensure I completed deliverables on time and with the level of attention I expected.”

All three knew each other through the golf industry prior to starting the sports management program but feel their shared experience at MSU will forge a lasting bond.

“Completing this program has definitely brought us closer, and I look forward to being able to reflect on our experiences as they apply to our personal and professional lives,” said Yanitski. “We are always looking for any angle to pursue professional development opportunities, and our time at Minot has laid the foundation to pursue other educational outlets together going forward.”

“Stephen, Bryce, and I often share conversations throughout the year about work and how we can become better golf professionals,” Kirkness said. “This program is no exception in that it has given us time to work together on projects, ask each other questions, and learn more about each other.

“I feel pretty confident that MSU will always tie the three of us together, even within the professional golf community, but being able to share an education experience over the past couple of years has been great.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/09/24   

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