Alumni Q-and-A with Tom Koehle
Tom Koehle is the head golf professional at Iron Masters Country Club in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. Now in his sixth season, Koehle oversees the daily operation of the golf pro shop, teaches individual and group lessons, and handles club interaction with members, charities, and local businesses. Koehle has been teaching golf for the past ten years, and at age 31, has become one of the more popular instructors in central Pennsylvania. Koehle began teaching youth clinics while serving as an assistant professional at Toftrees Resort in State College, Pennsylvania, and continued to branch out into teaching individuals the fundamentals of the game.
Koehle served as the head golf coach at Penn State Altoona from 2004 to 2011. His teams won four Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championships and appeared in four NCAA Division III National Golf Championships. Aside from his duties at Iron Masters, Koehle is president of the Penn State Altoona Alumni Society and a member of the Penn State Altoona Advisory Board, Penn State Alumni Council, and Blair County Chamber of Commerce Growth and Relationships of Young Professionals Steering Committee.
Q: Is it easier to play golf or teach the game?
A: It is easier to teach the game, no doubt! To be good at playing, it takes practice, patience, and time. To teach the game, you simply have to be able to understand why the ball flies the way it does and be an effective communicator.
Q: What is a typical day like for a golf pro?
A: The best part of my job is the fact that I get to interact with so many great people. From March to October, most days are nine to twelve hours a day, seven days a week. During that time, I am constantly on the phone, emailing, texting, updating our web site, scheduling lessons, or just talking to someone about their game or anything. My job is all about staying in touch with people and meeting their expectations.
Q: Of all the lessons you learned in college, what has proven most valuable to you in your career; or which lessons do you apply every day?
A: College really taught me about time management. While in school, like many people, I worked full time and also played golf at Penn State Altoona. It was quite a balancing act to study, go to class, work, practice, and make matches fit into one tight schedule. To this day, time management is so key. The hardest part of time management is finding quality down time.
Q: When you were enrolled at Penn State Altoona, what was your career goal?
A: While at Penn State Altoona, I simply wanted to take advantage of having a degree from Penn State and become a great history teacher. Little did I know, I would be a golf pro. I knew that Penn State would help me get to wherever it was I wanted to go, and that still holds true today.
Q: How have the demands of your profession impacted your love of recreational golf?
A: I play very little recreational golf. That is true for most golf course pros. I enjoy my time when I play, but it is truly recreational. It is time I can interact with the members on a more one-on-one basis, and it allows them to get to know me a little better.
Q: What do you miss most about coaching at the collegiate level?
A: I truly miss the interaction with and watching the growth of student athletes. The 18-year-old, incoming freshman changes so much by the time he or she is a 22-year-old graduating senior. I miss giving those kids something to be proud of, win or lose. The kids put so much effort in, and to hear a “Thanks Coach” is something that is tough to replace.
Q: How does a golf pro at a country club in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, spend the winter?
A: Believe it or not, there is still work to be done in the winter months. If the weather cooperates, the golf course remains open and usually the golfers still show up! Winter is a time for paper work, reaching out to charities and businesses for upcoming fund raisers, and reaching out to potential new members. There is a little down time to enjoy, but there is always some preparation for the upcoming season to be done.
Q: What is one area of responsibility at the club that you would shed, if you could?
A: I honestly cannot pick one. I try to delegate responsibilities to my staff as much as I can. As long as the job is done to our standards, everything is great! If I can empower an employee with responsibility, then we grow stronger as a club and the service we provide. So instead of giving up responsibility, I try to spread it around.
Q: What are some of the things that you would like to accomplish as president of the Penn State Altoona Alumni Society?
A: One of our goals for as long as I have been on the board is to try and grow the board's participation and fund raising efforts. That is not my goal; that is our entire board’s goal. We have been blessed with strong leadership prior to my tenure, and will continue to have strong leadership after I move on. The Trustee Matching Scholarship we recently voted to create is a huge feather in the cap of the Alumni Society, and shows our commitment to providing students with much needed aid. It also invigorates us to fund new and creative ways to raise funds in the coming years.
Q: Your relationship with Penn State Altoona includes your status as a student, coach, benefactor, and alumni leader. What are one or two especially fond memories of your varied experiences with the college or the people you have met?
A: My fondest memories have been the buildup and success of the first Winter Plunge. The Alumni Society board put so much hard work into the event in a short period of time, and we pulled it off. From the preparation and jumping in freezing water to signing the check for THON putting them over the $100,000 mark for the first time ever and the entire day at Canoe Creek—this all really made me feel like our board made a difference. My second-fondest memory has to be the success our golf program had during my eight years of coaching. Being the first Penn State Altoona team to qualify for NCAA National Championship was special. I truly enjoyed coaching great young men and women. We won several different ways. We were dominant one season, underdogs the next, but we always won and lost with class. The majority of the young people who went through our program were excellent students and have become young leaders in their respective fields. That’s the most rewarding experience a coach can ask for.