Like many high-level internship programs, the US PGA Tour’s is not an easy one to get into. With just 25 spots available and anywhere from 800 and 1,100 applications in a year to sift through, the tour is looking for the best and brightest, specifically rising college sophomores who have to go through a rigorous process just to earn consideration. Standing out would appear to be an intimidating task.
But what if your name is Island Green? With the tour’s headquarters being located in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida, site of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which features the famed island green at the 17th hole, it could only help, no?
If you can first believe that there is an intern at the tour this American summer named Island Green, then you’ll also believe that his name had no bearing on whether or not he was chosen as one of the tour’s 25 summer interns.
A soon-to-be junior at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina who says his mum just wanted to name her son “something different”, Green heard through students and advisers about the tour’s internship program. With a little bit of golf in his background (Green was part of The First Tee of Greater Charlotte when he was younger), he gave it a shot and applied, unaware of the connection of his name to the tour’s flagship event.
“I didn’t know too much,” said Green of the island green at TPC Sawgrass. “I knew there was a golf course named Island Green in South Carolina, but I didn’t know about the island green in general.”
“I think we taught Island more about the island green during the interview process then he knew beforehand,” said Jim Clarke, the tour’s senior director of human resources who also oversees the internship program.
According to Clarke, no one knew Island’s name when going through the first round of applications, the committee looking initially at blind resumes with no names or schools, just backgrounds and essays.
“No one at the tour even knew until we started announcing the class,” Clarke said. “This wasn’t something that came from [US PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan like, ‘Hey, we need this guy to be here.’ When I called Island’s manager at first, he picked up and said What’s his real name? I said, I know, he’s going to get a lot of that this summer. But we go through applications, essays, a pre-recorded series of video questions they have to answer and then a live Skype call. So that helps narrow everything down, and outside of our admissions committee, people didn’t know we had an Island Green in the mix.”
Everyone learned he was in the mix at the tour’s quarterly meeting in July, when Monahan introduced a video about the summer interns played to the “Friends” opening theme song. At the end of the video, Island made his appearance, stating his name, where he was standing (the 17th green) and what he was drinking (a smoothie from the tour’s café called… you guessed it “The Island Green”). The 400-plus people at the meeting burst out laughing.
“Being picked out of 1,000 applicants, I’m truly blessed to be here and in this position, they took a chance on me and hopefully I’ll make them proud,” Green says.
In speaking to Island, Clarke and Kirsten Sabia, the tour’s vice-president of integrated communications, it certainly sounds like he’s doing just that. In addition to working in the Tournament Business Affairs department, Island has also been a part of a host of community outreach projects and tournament activities.
“It’s not about getting coffee and running around,” Clarke says. “We’re focused on exposing them to projects, high-level meetings, interacting with executive committee, with Jay Monahan. Showing them how a business is run and how a sport is run.”
Green travelled to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship in July, when he helped the Make-A-Wish Foundation have two kids meet Jordan Spieth. He also helped with the Birdies for the Brave caddie program, introducing military veterans to the golfers, and Operation Showers, which throws baby showers for expecting mothers who are in service or are married to someone in the military.
“My experience with the tour has been great,” Green says. “The one thing about the tour is they’re always willing to give back to the community and that’s just something I love to be a part of.”
Green models what the tour was looking for from its intern when the summer program was revamped eight years ago, combining what were then two separate programs, the diversity program and the tournament-focused intern program, into one smaller, more education-based program. All the interns are provided housing in Ponte Vedra Beach and given more opportunity to work on projects together while learning how a professional sport is run.
This summer’s interns, which Clarke says is 62 percent diverse and half male, half female, features collegiate golfers, golf fans, individuals who have never touched a club, kids from state schools, small private schools, rural areas and those that grew up in a city. It’s the type of class the tour was searching for when they analysed others and found that the minority community was largely unaware of the opportunities in the golf industry beyond the competitive side shown on television.
“I’m most definitely learning professionalism and I think… this is a new environment for me and I’m learning every day, every week just how to conduct yourself in the workplace, how to answer a phone,” Green says. “I mean, that might sound simple to some people but sometimes you need to introduce yourself and who you work for. I’m learning everything.”
As for what’s next for Island, he still has two more years of college, but could definitely see himself working at the US PGA Tour some day. But Clarke sees even more opportunities for not only Green, but the entire program.
“If you look at our statistics of what these students are doing afterwards they are leaders in their areas, and we’re fortunate to get them,” Clarke says. “So, I think that 20 years from now they may be CEOs, Jay [Monahan] may be asking them to partner with us. It’s not just about their time here.”
With everything Green has learned during his his internship, it’s safe to say he’s got a bright future ahead. Whether or not that future includes golf remains to be seen, but if it does, he’s got the right name for it.