Assistant golf professionals wear many hats, and James Chojnowski, PGA (Framingham Country Club) pulls it off as well as anyone. Jim, as he goes by, has successfully juggled junior and lady golf programming, merchandising, tournament operations, and volunteer work, and as a result he will be recognized as the New England PGA’s Assistant Golf Professional of the Year.
Chojnowski’s ladies programming at Framingham CC has not only engaged a new population of golfers, but has even resulted in an uptick in memberships. Lessons and Libations, as it’s called at Framingham, offers a welcoming and relaxed environment for ladies to learn some of the basics with friends. It’s not only a fun way to spend an afternoon, but gives new golfers the tools needed to hit the course.
“At Framingham we have golf, we have a pool, we have young families, so we’re trying to find ways to make them happy and stay longer at the club,” Chojnowski said. “We have a very good junior program at our place. With the women, we were trying to get them to tee it up with their kids and with their father.”
So far it has been a successful endeavor. Since the inception of Lessons and Libations, at least 15 new spouse golf memberships have come from families of participants. The successful junior program helps get the whole family out on the course together.
Framingham CC runs an Operation 36 program for juniors, which reached 78 junior golfers last year and accounted for more than 400 additional rounds of golf. Operation 36, a national program instituted at Framingham by Head PGA Professional Graham Cunningham and run by Cunningham, Chojnowski, and fellow assistant P.J. Breton, PGA, gives juniors a three-pronged approach to learning the game. With group classes of 20-30 kids during the week and smaller, more focused supervised practice sessions on weekends. When it’s time to hit the course, the kids start with a 225-yard 9-hole course with a target score of 36, playing from 25 yards out on each hole. Once that benchmark is reached, they move back to 50 yards, then 100 yards, until they’re eventually playing from the tee boxes.
“There’s always the gap with any person, you give them a lesson but how do you get them to transfer it onto the golf course?” Chojnowski said. “What really bridged the gap for us is you’ve got mom and dad and the kids out on the course playing golf together. It shows them how to score, it teaches them a lot about golf, and I think it helps the parent’s bond with them a little more in a different way because they’re caddying for them. It’s been great because it’s a young club. There’s not a lot of older members. Everyone basically has some kind of young family and their kids are getting into golf.”
Jim has also implemented a new philosophy to Framingham’s merchandising operations, specifically their process of getting the right clubs into members’ bags.
“We didn’t want to tie a lot of cash flow into demos and stock clubs because a lot of people are just custom fit,” he said. Instead, Jim has orchestrated a parade of club-fitters to frequent the club every Friday throughout the season. This allows members to get their custom-fit clubs while reducing the amount of cash the club has tied up in inventory of stock clubs.
“If you have all those clubs, you’re not guaranteed to move all of them, so then you have to figure out ways to move the clubs, and you don’t want to liquidate them,” he said. “You’re not making a large margin on the club so to think that you’re going to move all the clubs and force them into people’s hands, you don’t want to do that either. We want to be customer-service oriented. If we put all this money into clubs, we’re not going to be able to put it into clothing or accessories and things they really want.”
Representatives from companies like TaylorMade, Titleist, PXG or True Spec Golf have come to Framingham CC for club-fittings. “The days of carrying a fully-stocked golf shop with a ton of stock clubs and stock shafts, we’re thinking that in the future everything is custom fit.”
While Jim’s duties at the course are enough to keep him busy all season, he still carves out time to volunteer outside of the club. As part of the New England PGA’s Growth of the Game Committee, he has participated in clinics at Boston Children’s Hospital. He has volunteered with Bob Beach, PGA, at Brockton Veteran Affairs Hospital to help give access to golf to military veterans. He has also given time to Operation Santa in his hometown of West Springfield, Mass., to ensure families have food and gifts at the holidays and given lessons at the Boston Golf Expo.
“To see the happiness that we can give to people and have a positive impact on them and make their day just a little better is very rewarding,” he said. “I think what we’ve done at Boston Children’s Hospital is great. Making an impact on those kids’ lives, because they’re going through some serious stuff. You don’t ask what they’re going through, you just try to make their day just a little bit better and get their mind off what they’re dealing with.”
Chojnowski will accept his award on Saturday, Nov. 2 at the New England PGA Awards Banquet at Cyprian Keyes Golf Club.
“Being a golf professional, you wear many hats. I’m heavily involved in outside services, teaching, merchandising, tournament operations. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Graham,” he said. “I’m humbled by it because I know our Section is so large and there’s a lot of great clubs and there are so many great assistants in the Section. To be recognized among them, it’s tremendous.”