Young Upstarts

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[Interview] Zack Creed, Oakville Golf Instructor On Entrepreneurship, Career Transitions

Oakville’s Zack Creed would say golf was in his blood. After captaining his high school team in New Jersey, he studied Professional Golf Management (PGM) and recreation management at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). As a student, he honed his skills through a number of internships at some of the finest courses in the US.

After graduation, Zachary Creed worked at Crooked Stick Golf Club as an Assistant Golf Professional, where he was alternatively Tournament Director and head of the Ladies & Junior programs. He also taught in the Advanced Junior Golf Program for high school and college golfers as well as for aspiring professionals. He had the opportunity to serve as Tournament Liaison for the U.S. Senior Open Championship in 2011 and for the 2012 BMW (Fedex playoff), as well as play with celebrities, politicians, and other professional athletes.

While working at The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club in Fishers, Indiana, Zack qualified for and played in the 2012 and 2013 Indiana Open tournaments. While working as the co-first assistant professional at the Highland Golf & Country Club in Indianapolis in 2014, he was a finalist for Indiana Professional of the Year.

Zack’s next career move was to turn to the business side of golf. Working in Sales & Marketing for Midas Event Supply (MES) in Ontario, California, he became a skilled trade show representative to club managers. His main task was to evaluate the MES expansion of golf products into the Canadian market. In just six months, Zack exceeded over $100,000 in new sales.

After first being elected into the PGA in 2010, Zack Creed is exploring a return to active status in Canada. In addition to playing golf, he also teaches it and will soon be opening a golf-focused business featuring simulated play, lessons, and a pro shop.

You have taken various career paths throughout your life. What are your tips for someone who wants to make a shift in their career?

Zack Creed: “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. Take advantage of opportunity especially when you are young, without the responsibilities of a family and mobile. It’s not just about the money, it’s a chance to build a more solid foundation for the future. Do it for the right reasons; happiness, self exploration and acquisition of experience. Try to look beyond the short term and build up you as the asset.

How do you think learning a sport, broadly speaking, helps entrepreneurs develop skills they need for business?

Zack Creed: First and foremost, learning and playing a sport and business skill acquisition share some cornerstone characteristics. Determination to succeed, some humility – “I can always get better” and competitive spirit. These are the most visible elements that are shared but there are others. Teamwork for one. Even in individual sports like golf and tennis, the very best athletes and entrepreneurs recognize that they can’t achieve by themselves. They may not have “teammates” but they do have a team; coaches, mentors, parents, colleagues. All important if you are aiming for the top.

What is your advice for athletes who want to move into the business side of sports?

Zack Creed: In my senior year of high school I had to make a decision; play NCAA level golf (or volleyball) or go the “business” route in golf, the club professional. If you are in the same position as I was, try to have that Plan B ie. if I don’t get recruited at the college level I want, maybe I branch into the business side instead.

If you are already a professional athlete, you’ll need to broaden your horizons. Don’t overlook formal training; maybe it isn’t a degree program at a university but maybe specialized courses or volunteerism in the business side of your chosen sport. Above all, keep active on your business and personal network as mentorship opportunities are possible through contacts.

You have met so many interesting people through your career. Can you share some career guidance you have received from them?

Zack Creed: I’ve been fortunate in life to have some really excellent bosses. My first boss was a legend in my sport; known by many tour stars. Lot of charisma, lot of skill but his real forte was leadership. Before big events we would meet to discuss how our performance could “hit it out of the park!” It got you into the right motivational headspace and sharpened performance. Despite this they always had time to impart some sage career advice.

Expand your horizons and don’t settle for mediocrity.

Achieve some balance between family and work, that support at home will help you succeed at your business.

Keep your perspective; I had the opportunity to fly on some private jets to golf destinations with some affluent businessmen/celebrities – enjoy the moment but stay grounded, this is not your life, it’s theirs. Stay focused on the big picture!

What life lessons have you learned from golf?

Zack Creed: Above all, golf teaches you about integrity and people. I’ve found that you can learn a lot about a person on a golf course. Their deportment, attitude and behaviors are often a window into their soul. Little things like raking the bunker behind you, fixing a divot or a ball mark on the green suggests a concern and responsibility for your fellow golfers.

Equally important is the sense of accomplishment you can derive from successfully teaching students and improving their games. Their joy in fixing a poor swing or achieving a goal that you co-authored with them does so much to enrich your own life.

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