Monday, April 23, 2012
Golf Academy of America extends its unique college experience to Dallas-Fort Worth area
The area's strong golf economy was an important factor for choosing Texas as the company’s newest location.
Correcting his stance and steadying his hands one day recently, a Golf Academy of America student slowly raises his club back in preparation to swing and hit. With one swift move, the ball goes soaring into the sky. But this isn’t your typical golf game on the putting green. This student is using the latest in aboutGolf Simulator brand technology, bringing the golf course indoors through 3D graphics.
This is just one of many pieces of golf technology in what they refer to at the new golf academy as “the fun part. Our little play room,” said John Keriazakos, the school's director of admissions.
The private for-profit Golf Academy of America, with locations around the U.S., is the country's largest two-year golf management and instructional college, offering students a narrowly focused education intended to prepare them for a future in their one true love: golf.
“A good portion of our graduates are going to go into the field and teach golf so they need to learn how to use the equipment and also about how the business is run,” said Keriazakos.
The academy on Valley View Lane in Farmers Branch opened in January. Other locations include Phoenix, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, and San Diego. There are currently 21 students enrolled at the Farmers Branch location, Keriazakos said, with another 40 students expected by summer and about 60 more in the fall.
Unlike most traditional colleges that offer a wide variety of courses and specialties, the Golf Academy is designed to cater to those who wish to pursue a career in the golf industry. Tuition is $8,332 per semester, which includes fees and textbooks.
Students learn the business side of the golf industry, as well as technique and skills from PGA professionals. The Academy offers a two-year associates degree, which officials say allows graduates to work on the business side of the golf industry, or to teach golf.
“Our curriculum is a mix of business and golf. Half of their curriculum revolves around golf swing,” said Keriazakos.
After 30 years and nearly 11,000 graduates, the Golf Academy of America has an 85 percent plus placement rate with most students recruited directly by golf companies, company officials said.
Although some graduates will go on to play golf tours, the majority are likely to work in golf course management, teaching, tournament operations or sales.
“They all get better at playing and they learn a lot so when they get to their career they have a great background,” said Keriazakos. “We really get them off to a good start.”
The school sees a variety of different types of students, some who were laid off when the economy tanked and needed a new career and others who quit their jobs to pursue a personal dream.
“Our oldest student here right now is 57. We see many different reasons why people want to either change careers or start a new career,” said Keriazakos.
Adding to the school’s diverse enrollment is the large number of students that are military veterans, making up about 40 percent the first class.
“They’re looking to have a second career after their service time,” said Keriazakos.
Although The Golf Academy is only a two-year program, like many other colleges they offer financial help, which is an incentive for prospective students.
“I put together funding plans for the guys who come to school here,” said Brian Wallace, director of financial planning.
“Guys and gals,” he corrects himself. “It’s 98 percent guys. We have one gal this semester,” said Wallace.
Various financial aid programs are available for eligible students including federal financial aid as well as college loans and grants. The GI Bill covers the cost of two years of school for military veterans, allowing them to avoid incurring any debt from student loans.
In addition to studying business in the classroom and practicing with some of golf’s top technology, students participate in hands-on projects to further enhance their learning.
“One of the classes in the third semester they’ll actually build a set of clubs,” said Keriazakos.
According to Greg Gossett, the school director at The Golf Academy in Farmers Branch, north Texas' strong golf economy was an important factor for choosing Texas as the company’s newest location, with Dallas being named No. 1 in Golf Digest’s “Top 20 Cities for Golf” last October.
“The number of great public courses in the DFW Metroplex and the large number of golfers that live in this area make Dallas a great location for a school like the Golf Academy,” said SMU senior and avid golf player Bennett Byrd.
“I think it is an excellent idea for people interested in working in the golf industry,” said Byrd.
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