Mike Harmon: Playing the PGA Tour, the golf industry, and building a world-class golf experience from the ground up.
“I can teach a kid anything in this business. I can’ teach them how to shoot 66, that’s immediate respect from the member and that cannot be replaced.”
- Mike Harmon
Mike Harmon is a titan in the industry, he’s also the Director of Golf at Secession Golf Club in Beaufort, South Carolina. Mike has been in and around the game for almost 50 years and he has seen and done it all and we talk about all of that in this show. We start with how he got started in the game as a kid and worked his way into becoming a member of the PGA Tour in the early 1980s where he rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest and beset players to ever play the game. We then follow his career from the PGA Tour to the club side of the business where he goes from walking the fairways and playing at the most elite level all the way back to the beginning where he is washing golf carts, washing golf clubs and folding sweaters.
From there we get into his progression on the club side of the business where he worked his way up and became the Director of golf at Secession Golf Club and he was very instrumental in helping build the club from the beginning and ground up from day one. We also talk about Secession Golf Club itself; the name, the unique experience, the challenges in the early days and the success.
In Mike’s more than 30 years of helping to make Secession Golf Club a world-renowned club he’s also found time to win a number of awards at the local, Sectional, and National levels and his mentoring program, not only for assistant’s but the kids in and around the city of Beaufort, illustrates his commitment to giving back.
I caught up with Mike during one of the busiest times of year, for him and the club, but in typical Mike fashion he is always more than willing to help someone, and he made time for this interview. He gives a ton of wisdom, tells some great stories and I hope you find this interview as enjoyable as I did while talking to him.
Golf 360 came about from a theory I wrote a decade ago called The Golf Paradigm. This theory was in the process of becoming a master's thesis and book until life got in the way and time didn't allow it. It is something I came up with after spending over 30 years in golf. During that time, I was fortunate enough to have met, become friends with or worked with some exceptional people. Some of them were within the industry while others were outside of it but they all had phenomenal information that helped me improve as a player, a coach and a person. Whether it was a world-renowned coach, genius club fitter or engineer, ground breaking health professional or therapist, fantastic mental coach or psychologist or someone that understood how to utilize all of these to the benefit of the whole, they are some amazing people. There were also many others, all highly accomplished and from various fields; the business world, other professional athletes, and many more that were kind enough to pass along the knowledge they had acquired over a lifetime of work. Not only did their input help me as a touring professional, it also helped me in life and with my current teaching position with the The Golf Paradigm Academy. I wanted to take my good fortune of having access to so many people and bring that to you so you could apply it to your own game and life. With such a wide array of people I thought why not call it 'Golf 360'
The common denominator with all of the guests is they have two things in common 1) they were very highly accomplished and exceptional in their field and 2) they were more than willing to share their knowledge, experiences and pearls of wisdom with me and many others who were more than willing to learn and improve themselves in their games, business or life.
I hope you enjoy listening to each of the guests and can utilize the information they pass along; whether its a story, an experience or fascinating information so you can continue to improve your game and life.
This episode is brought to you in-part, by Old South Golf Links. A short ride across the bridge from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is one of the areas finest golf courses and a hidden treasure. Set up on towering pines and ancient oaks with sweeping marsh vistas truly makes old south golf links a one-of-a-kind golfing experience. The Clyde Johnston design was named one of the Top 10 new public courses when it opened and it also takes full advantage of the natural beauty of the Low country. Old South is a fun and unique challenge for golfers of every skill level and is a favorite of both locals and visitors. Whether its your first time here or you';re a regular you will be treated and feel like family. From the bag drop to check-in in the fully stocked pro shop with both men's and women's apparel to breakfast or lunch before or after your round the staff is always ready and willing to help. Experience for yourself why Old South is one of the premiere golf courses in the Hilton Head area and why it will quickly become a favorite of yours too. Visit them in person or online at www.oldsouthgolf.com or to make a tee time simply call the pro shop at 843-785-5353.
Any questions, feedback or insight from this episode? What did you learn most and what did you like best from this episode? What should be added for future episodes? Please post your answer in the 'Comments' below:
During our discussion you'll learn more about...
Early life in golf
Is he related to the world famous Harmon family?
Where did his nickname 'Old Pro' come from?
Why he chose baseball over golf.
His college playing career at Middle Tennessee and how he taught himself creativity to became an elite player.
Playing the PGA Tour in the 1980's
What it's like to earn a PGA Tour card
When did he know he had the game to make it to the PGA Tour
What it takes to make a career on the PGA Tour
Getting through the dreaded PGA Tour QSchool ...on the number
What it's like to play in the U.S. Open
Who were the 'young guns' of his era?
What winning does to your confidence, career and life
What was the tour like at that time?
The difference maker between a good players and great players...CONFIDENCE
Playing in a PGA Tour event at 50 in your local area
Qualifying for the Senior British Open
The difficulty of the decision to retire from playing professionally
Transitioning from a touring professional to a club professional
Being mentored by Tim Moss and learning the club business
The mentality of a tour player vs that of a club professional
Understanding yourself and what you're good at; Enjoying life vs. grinding hard on your game
Secession Golf Club
The early days and the struggle
Traveling with the PGA of America and having a family life
Why fight for the success of the club and the difference between successful and historic
Reasons historic clubs are historic and can Secession Golf Club reach that level?
Simplicity: part of what makes a national or international club great
How did the club get the name Secession?
How many carts are at the club and is it too many?
What makes a national club vs a local club?
What differentiates Secession Golf Club from other clubs and what is the experience?
The 'back porches', why they're 'the' place to be and why people love it
Why adversity can be a good thing.
Achieving success vs. managing success
Why saying 'NO' is a key to building a great club, business or anything else
How to continually improve without losing what the club stands for or what the founders put in place
Caring about what's the important part of the golf experience and understated elegance
Planting trees that you will never get to sit under
Mentoring local kids
Still with the first kid he mentored decades later
Giving opportunities to make young kids as good as they could be and the Junior Academy Program
What kids get in exchange for their work and how it benefits them as they grow
The Secession 9/11 Fund and how it helps local kids in the community
Teaching responsibility, making hard decisions and learning important lessons
Why he always looks for good players
Who is it in honor of?
Who fires it?
Where does it point and why?
What is the Blue vs Gray?
The story of first shot ever fired (this is awesome)
Secession Golf Club: the golf course and clubhouse
The story of the design and architects; Bruce Devlin and Pete Dye
Traditions and what helps make great clubs; firing canons, hitting off door mats and playing 'the loop'
State of the Game of Golf today
What he thinks is good and what is bad?
Technology and athletes playing the modern game
Modern courses vs classic courses and the effect of design on today's game
Getting to watch Tiger and his effect on golf
Technology for the viewer
Which course would he play if he had one last round?
What would he change with the PGA of America and the club professional part of the industry?
How to increase participation in the game
The assistant program at Secession Golf Club
What should up and coming assistants and apprentices do to prepare themselves for the future in the industry?
Never ruin a good pair of pants.