December 4th 2019 - The number of men among the PGA of America’s 29,000 members far outnumbers the women. That’s no secret, and the number of married couples working in the business as PGA members isn’t very big either. It’s under 100 nationwide. What might be surprising out of that segment of the golf industry, though, involves two married couples all of whom are Illinois PGA members.
Cory and Jennifer Ferrell met in 1999 through the Golf Professional Training Program (GPTP) in Columbus, Ohio. Cory and Jennifer were both in Level One of the program when they met and were put into the same group for the week based on their last names.
“It all started back in 1999 with the GPTP. We were in Columbus at the first checkpoint of the program,” said Jennifer. “We were placed in the same group because they separate you alphabetically. By the end of the week, we had become good friends and would end up wintering and working at the same facility in the Port St. Lucie area for a couple of years as well.”
The Ferrells married in 2007, a few years after they both received their PGA Professional status in 2002. Jennifer began her career as the Head PGA Professional at Glendale Lakes Golf Club in the fall of 2002 and has been there ever since, transitioning to the Head PGA Professional/Division Manager in 2014, where she oversees the golf course, golf operations and food and beverage. Cory also got his membership in 2002 and has been the Head PGA Professional at Sugar Creek Golf Course since 2013 after stints at Maple Meadows Golf Club, Seven Bridges Golf Club, and as a Teaching Professional at Old Oak Country Club.
Their initial beginnings in the industry are far different than each other but working in the golf business seemed to be destined for both Cory and Jennifer.
Born and raised in Maryland, Cory, grew up in the golf business under several well-respected PGA Members in the Middle Atlantic Section, including his father Cary. Cary is a PGA Life Member of the Middle Atlantic Section, and Cory grew up at the course his father managed for 25 years learning both the game of golf and the golf business.
“My father has been involved with the PGA dating back to the 70s,” said Cory. “I feel like becoming a PGA Member was a life goal achievement for me. Growing up with my father as a PGA Professional and now a PGA Life Member, it’s been a great accomplishment for me to follow along in his footsteps and be a second-generation PGA Professional.”
Jennifer’s start to the industry more revolved around her playing career. As Jennifer Broggi, she was one of Illinois’ best amateurs when she was in high school at Naperville North and college at Illinois State University (ISU).
“My father is a very good golfer and was introduced to the game of golf through his parents who were members at Riverside Golf Club when the late Bill Heald was the Head PGA Professional there. My dad then got my family into the game,” said Jennifer. “Golf is what we did as a family. I had a pretty successful high school career and ended up earning a scholarship at Illinois State University.”
After changing her major a few times while at Illinois State, and a solid four years of golf, Jennifer decided to turn pro and try and make it on the mini tour during the winter months.
“After college I went down to Orlando with one of my college teammates and tried to make it on the mini tours. I did that for three winters,” said Jennifer. “It wasn’t awful, but I decided, after getting a
reality check of how good other women were, it wasn’t my cup of tea. I had worked at a Park District course in high school back in the day and really enjoyed it. I decided from there that I wanted to pursue a job in the golf industry.’’
Josh and Katie Pius also met through the golf business. The two met while Josh was in the midst of a five-year run as an assistant professional at North Shore Country Club in Glenview and Katie was an assistant at Westmoreland County Club, in Wilmette. They’ve been married for five years and are in their sixth seasons at their current facilities.
“I was an assistant at North Shore Country Club and Katie was at Westmoreland Country Club,” said Josh. “One of the teaching assistants at North Shore played with Katie in college and they came out to play one day. The rest is history.”
Both Josh and Katie pursued their PGA Professional status by attending universities that had the PGM Program. Josh attended Ferris State University and Katie attended Methodist University, where she also played on the golf team. As with Jennifer, Katie’s playing career is what pushed her towards her PGA Certification.
“I got into golf very young thankfully,” said Katie. “A lot of my family played golf, including both of my parents. While playing in a high school tournament, I was given a list of PGM schools. Methodist University was one of those schools and that led me down this path.”
Katie is one of many outstanding women golfers hailing from Methodist. She was a member of four NCAA Division III National Championship teams and was a four-time First Team All-American. In 2007, she captured the NCAA Division III Individual National Championship. She was inducted into the Methodist Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017. She began her PGA Professional career at Westmoreland Country Club and is now an Assistant PGA Professional at Biltmore Country Club, a role she has served in since 2014.
Josh grew up in Michigan. He had a job at a course outside of Detroit while in high school and was encouraged by the head professional there to go through the PGM Program.
“The head professional at the course I worked at in high school went through the PGM Program at Ferris State University,” said Josh. “He encouraged me to do the same thing and I did. I really enjoyed my time going through the program and got some internships that lead me to the Chicagoland area.”
Josh spent two years as a head professional in Wisconsin before coming to Illinois. He became the Head PGA Professional at Inverness Golf Club in 2014.
Both couples agree that the hours that their profession demands is the biggest challenge they face. They also agree that having someone in the industry by their side makes it easier.
“The personal challenge we face is definitely the number of hours that this career demands on you,” said Jennifer. “It didn’t come as a surprise to us since we’ve been around golf our entire lives. It’s nice though, because we face similar issues and we can bounce ideas off each other.”
“It’s no different than two teachers or two police officers,’’ said Cory. “Golf is just different because of the demanding unusually long hours. It does help to have someone by your side that can help give you another perspective.”
The Pius’ challenges extend further than just what the golf industry poses. Katie and Josh have two children, Betty 3 ½ and Millie, 1. Luckily, their clubs are just a few miles apart, and that’s a big help.
“There’s a lot of time coordination,” said Josh, “but I don’t consider it difficult. I know what Katie’s going through, and she knows what I’m going through, so we support each other throughout the season. It’s nice having someone who understands what you’re going through.’’
“I always said I’d never marry a golf professional because I knew the hours they work,” said Katie. “But then I met Josh. I have some flexibility with my schedule, which makes it easier for us. The kids are in day care on the days when I work, and we visit Josh sometimes on the days when I’m home.”
Although the playing days are limited for these four Illinois PGA Professionals, and teaching the game to others is at the forefront, they do what they can to stay competitive in the game.
Katie does some teaching and runs the women’s leagues at Biltmore Country Club while retaining her status as the best woman player in the Section. She plays in most of the Section tournaments, while Josh is limited basically to what he calls, “the silly season,” when the events are more on the social side. They make an effort to play one nine-hole round together every month.
“We’re pretty competitive,” said Katie. “We always have a little wager on it, whether it’s who gets to pick where we go to dinner or who has to give the kids a bath that night.”
“You have to remember I’m dealing with a Hall of Famer,” said Josh. “She’s just a better golfer than I am, plain and simple. She’s a talented player.”
Jennifer may not be playing in many tournaments these days, but she isn’t completely out of the competitive side of golf. She’s been the assistant coach of the girl’s team at Glenbard East High School since 2007.
“The season is short – just six-to-eight weeks, but I do enjoy it because it brings back great memories of high school and college,” said Jennifer.
Cory has 400 youngsters between the ages of 6-13 in his youth program at Sugar Creek Golf Course. He also works with Revelation Golf, a program that provides therapy through golf to military personnel.
The challenges that these two couples face together as PGA Professionals won’t be going away anytime soon. Their ability to utilize one another’s experiences and their passion for the game of golf seems to be the glue to make this all work.
“There are obviously challenges that come with the demands of this industry,” said Jennifer. “But when you eat, sleep and breathe golf, you find the ways to make it work.”