Robert Davis III interview

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PGA of America Master Professional, Director of Golf, PGA Learning and Performance Center at Yalong Bay GC, Sanya, China
Posted on
July 7, 2023
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Davis Background

Originally from Carthage, Missouri and has been a Class-A member of the PGA of America since 2012. He was awarded PGA Master Professional in Teaching and Coaching in May 2023, PGA Certified Professional in Player Development in 2014 and Certified Professional in General Management in 2015.

With over 25 years in the golf industry, he has a wealth of experience and a deep passion for teaching golf. He is a Titleist Certified Club Fitter, Operation 36 Certified Instructor, Flightscope Certified Instructor, Therabody X Certified Coach and Thorne Fitness Brand Ambassador.

Robert Davis III interview

The Davis Story

I come from a military family. My Dad was a Chaplain in the US Navy. So, naturally my siblings and I grew up on military bases.

My Dad would go out on deployment at times, so my mom would take us everywhere for our sports matches, tournaments...etc. Without her, I would not be where I am today. Most military bases in the US have golf courses. Some have 18-hole courses, some have executive courses (3–6-hole courses), or both. I would go out with my dad to these courses when I was young.

Even at a young age, I just enjoyed the challenge of golf. Trying to get that little golf ball in a hole so far away in the least number of strokes, I just couldn’t get enough of it. My first golf lesson experience started at the Key West Resort in Key West, Florida, under the eye of Janice Stephenson, a PGA/LPGA Professional at that time.

Over time, I started getting better and better. I then started playing and winning local junior golf tournaments. At that point, even as a young kid, I knew golf would be my pathway to success.

I first knew I would become a teaching professional when I went to play with a family member. At the time I was probably 13-years old. We were playing on the golf course, and he was just struggling with his golf swing. I was always an observant and analytical kid, so I was just watching what his swing flaws were.

After the round, we hit some balls on the range and I gave him some advice on his swing and what he needed to do to start hitting solid golf shots. He started to hit the ball well after that and would always call to ask me for advice after that.

Before I knew it, all my family members were calling. It was then I knew I could probably be good at teaching golf.

PGA of America

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You wake up in the morning -- what's the driving passion?

What drives my passion every morning is the fact I can go out and make someone’s golf game better and more enjoyable. I always say going into a golf lesson, I call it “The Big Mystery.” You never know what to expect, but “solving” that mystery is the excitement I get from it.

When it finally starts clicking for the student and they start hitting solid shots, closer chips to the hole, making more putts, it makes it all worth it. The ear-to-ear smiles they give and the excitement they have is what makes every second of teaching fulfilling for me.

 

What was your immediate reaction when you finally achieved PGA Master Professional status?

It was pure emotion and instant elation. It really didn’t hit me until I returned to the hotel room that afternoon. I worked so hard and waited such a long time just to be able to start the PGA Master Professional Program.

It has been a long road to get here but it also has been a gratifying learning experience. The long hours studying, pages upon pages of writing and reading over the years, have been worth every minute. Words cannot express what it means to be mentioned in the same category with some of the greatest teachers and PGA Professionals of all time, it is truly an honor.

Is enough being done by the PGA of America and other key global golf organizations to spur minorities on to playing golf?

I think now more than ever, more minorities are playing golf than ever before. The PGA of America has been instrumental in getting more minorities into the game of golf. In 2014, in the PGA’s Long-Term Strategic Plan included a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy.

Dialogues with the PGA Executive Team and our diverse Members and Associates began, and together ideas came about. Programs such as PGA WORKS and PGA REACH were implemented. More minority businesses showcased at the annual PGA Merchandise Show.

Funding for the First Tee, local golf programs, college golf scholarships and other community-based programs have helped tremendously. In society, we all would like things to happen instantly, but the reality is that these things take time, and the results are starting to show over the last five years. There are more minorities representing on most professional tours than before and I expect more to come sooner rather than later.

 

Is there anything you would recommend be done on that front?

Golf is an expensive game. We all should be committed more to community-based programs to grow the game. I think more commitment from everyone, including the major golf vendors and sponsors, would be helpful.

Equipment needs are most important from my experiences in working with these programs. Apparel, balls, golf bags, clubs, and gloves as a start.

 

Robert Davis III interview

What's the best method for a student in searching out a quality teacher?

It is important to seek out a teacher that you can relate to and is approachable. Student-Teacher relationships are very important. After all you’re a team, right?

You really should seek a teacher that is experienced in short game and knowledgeable about the golf swing. For instance, in the USA we have the PGA Coach app and website, where you can find all the PGA Professionals in your area. There you can see each teacher’s bio, teaching philosophy, certifications, and awards. Hopefully, you have something similar in your part of the world. It is also recommended to contact a teacher you may be interested in and ask a few questions before committing to a lesson to see if he or she may be the right fit for you.

To be a successful teacher what are the core attributes needed?

• Patience
• Strong Communicator
• Be a Great Listener
• Be Engaging
• Be Understanding
• Be able to analyze and diagnose.
• Be Adaptable

 

What's been the biggest challenge in expanding the profile of golf in China?

Golf is still a young sport in China compared to other golf destinations such as the USA, Europe, Japan, and Korea. The biggest challenge here by far is accessibility. This is a big country with only around 400 golf courses.

Robert Davis III interview

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?

This would be tough, but making the game more affordable and accessible for everyone globally is one thing I would change. There are many countries in the world with very few golf
courses or golf instructors that can teach. For example, I have students that come to me from different countries in Asia and other parts of China, so I see it a lot. So, there is still progress to be made in that respect.

 

You've got one round of golf to play. Where would you tee it up and who are the three people joining you for the round, whether alive or dead?

St. Andrews (The Old Course) – I have not been able to play it yet.

• My Dad – in my early years playing golf, he got in a bad car accident and lost feeling in his hands and an arm, so he was never able to play again. But I am glad that I was able to enjoy my early years on the golf course with him.
• Calvin Peete – One of my favorite golfers of all time. My dad still calls me “Calvin Peete” till this day. I was known for my driving accuracy like Peete was.
• Rory McIlroy – great all-around golfer, plus I want to see if I can outdrive him!
• Lee Trevino – one of golf’s great players and entertainers on the golf course. He would keep us all entertained.

 

Best advice you ever received -- what was it and who was it from?

“Whatever you do in life, just be yourself”.

–My Mom

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Photos courtesy: PGA of America

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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