In golf, 'tis the season for hiring and firing.
All over town, at clubs and courses, the talk among golf pros often turns to which jobs, coveted or otherwise, are coming open - who's out, who's in, who's angling for what.
Most years, one, two, maybe three head pro jobs come open. With just over 800 pros in the Philadelphia PGA Section - 300 head pros, 500 assistant and teaching pros - you can imagine the grapevine chatter and jockeying for position.
This year is different. Not only are six head pro jobs open or coming open, four are coveted spots at top tier clubs: Overbrook Golf Club in Bryn Mawr, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club and The ACE Club, both in Lafayette Hill, and the choicest of them all, Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square.
"I can't remember three or four big jobs, quality jobs, being open at the same time," Geoff Surrette, executive director of the Philadelphia PGA Section, said last week. "It's definitely the buzz of the Section. Folks are trying to better themselves."
That's not surprising when pay packages for the top jobs at premier clubs around the country can reach $250,000, plus benefits and other incentives.
Besides those four prime posts, the head pro positions are open or coming open at two other clubs, neither of which is exactly chopped liver: Spring Mill Country Club in Warminster and Blue Bell Country Club in Blue Bell.
The reasons for the openings vary from club to club. At the ACE Club, Dave Nevatt, director of golf and general manager, resigned six months ago. Word is that post will be filled within the next few days.
At Aronimink and Overbrook, the contracts of their longtime pros, Jim Masserio and Stu Ingraham, respectively, were not renewed. At Whitemarsh, Jim Bromley, 52, head pro since 1985, is getting out of the golf pro business and buying three fitness-club franchises.
"Many years ago, I decided I couldn't do this job until I retired," said Bromley, who has worked at just two clubs (Whitemarsh and Waynesborough Country Club) since he was 12 years old. He knew the 12- and 14-hour days and six- and 61/2-day weeks would eventually be too much. In good conscience, Bromley said he couldn't give the job anything less than it demanded. "This club has been so good to me, there was no way I could do that," he said.
After years of saving, Bromley is buying three Snap Fitness franchises, a Minnesota-based company that is expanding. "I don't know what I'll miss," Bromley said. "I probably won't know until I miss it. It's a huge change. I'm scared to death."
At Overbrook and Aronimink, where Ingraham and Masserio, both former PGA Tour players, exit after 17 and 18 years, respectively. After years, both simply fell out of favor.
"Overbrook is a great club, and for 17 years I was treated very well," said Ingraham, 47, still one of the top players in the Section. "But at any club, where you have 500 to 600 people, you are going to have a few who won't like your style."
That's true, and it can be especially problematic in a business where, as Ingraham points out, your customers are also your bosses. Tick off the wrong member, or his wife, or maybe even his teenager, and you could find yourself a goner when said member gets named to the board at the club.
Ingraham, who left Overbrook a couple of weeks ago, has set up shop teaching at M Golf Driving Range in Newtown Square while he mulls his options. He might look for another head pro job around town; he might keep doing what he's doing while also marketing himself to corporations as a sort of rent-a-pro/teacher-for-a-day.
Masserio, 59, who will leave at the end of the year, demurred from discussing his plans, other than to say he's not ready to retire and he's staying in Philadelphia.
While doors are closing for six head pros, they will be opening for six others. All over town, pros with an eye toward moving up or at least moving on have been dusting off their resumes, potentially creating other openings.
That's the way the system works, like a game of musical chairs.
Of course, it's not always without snafus. Word is, a pro who was interested in one of the current openings accidentally e-mailed his resume and cover letter to every member in his club.