One of the PGA tour's signature golf tournaments takes place at the Pebble Beach Resorts each February and two newly minted UMES alumni will be working on the 2017 edition from a front-row seat.
Norman Blanco and Bobby Donson parlayed senior-year internships in UMES' PGA golf management program into assistant club pro jobs at the renowned venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean along the central California coast.
“I'm trying to be humble about the whole experience,” said Blanco, who grew up in New Orleans. “But, yeah, I have to pinch myself when I think about it.”
Blanco and Donson graduated Dec. 16 (2016) and immediately headed to the West Coast to start their careers.
“This is a game-changer for our program,” said Billy Dillon, director of UMES PGA golf management instruction. “It sends a message to potential students that we can compete with the 17 other (golf management) programs.”
According to Dillon, it is rare for Pebble Beach to offer full-time jobs right away to interns, but that is a luxury Blanco and Donson returned to campus with as they finished up their studies during the fall 2016 semester.
Enrolling at UMES proved a turning point in Donson's life after an injury playing college baseball at another institution near his Gaithersburg, Md. home short-circuited his pursuit of that game as a potential career.
“Being able to use what I've learned from hotel tourism management classes and golf management classes and tying it all in together has worked out perfectly,” Donson said.
Since its inception in 2008, the UMES golf management program has cultivated a network of golf-course internship opportunities at such high-profile locales as Caves Valley outside Baltimore, Congressional near Washington and on Martha's Vineyard.
The Pebble Beach relationship, now underscored by employing two UMES alumni, elevates the university's profile across the multi-billion dollar golf industry.
“We all jockey to get our students the best possible internships - internships that can change lives and careers,” Dillon said. “The Pebble Beach internship is at the top of that list.”
The UMES-Pebble Beach internship opportunity has its roots in the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, where UMES golf management students encounter and seek out potential employers who can help them fulfil degree requirements with hands-on work in the field.
“Having the opportunity to intern at the number one public golf course in America was priceless,” Blanco wrote in an essay published in Eastern Shore Golf Magazine. “It was an educational feast; learning from the best of the best was invaluable.”
Donson's essay in the same publication described his Pebble Beach experience as “truly a blessing … (where he experienced) day-after-day learning various aspects of the industry, gaining more real-life experiences and knowledge. (I) never took a day for granted.”
Jon Seward of Fort Washington, Md., who anticipates graduating in the spring of 2018, also joined Blanco and Donson for the sixth-month intern stint at Pebble Beach.
“I was exposed to the best-run golf operation in America,” Seward said, “and had the best seat in the house as a young, aspiring professional thirsty for knowledge.”
Donson and Blanco were among five golf management graduates who received degrees during the university's 2016 winter commencement. Classmate Patrick Harris of Providence Forge, Va., also is California-bound after accepting a job at the Turkey Creek Golf Club in Lincoln north of Sacramento.
They made up UMES' fifth group to earn a unique Bachelor of Science degree combining elements of instruction to hone high-level golf skills and hospitality and tourism management coursework.
Dillon says the UMES program now has “37 graduates all over the country that have, so far, been successful in the golf industry.” It is one of 18 in the nation with PGA accreditation, and the lone historically black institution.
The UMES-Pebble Beach connection underscores to other students that hard-work and perseverance will be rewarded, Dillon said.
“When outside agencies get a taste of what UMES produces, they tend to be extremely happy with the results,” Dillon said. “This program directly affects lives in a positive manner and I can't wait to see where our graduates end up.”
Information from: UMES Office of Public Relations, (410) 651-6669