Paul Smith branched out from a PGA traineeship into a vocation that lets him assist his fellow PGA members.
Given his access to the family business as funeral directors in Canberra, Paul Smith developed an eye for business at a young age. When he combined that intuition for enterprise with his passion for golf and found his way into the PGA of Australia’s Membership Pathway Program, Smith began to establish a connection between the two that would shape his career.
Owner/manager of the Bank of Queensland Branch in Southport on the Gold Coast, Smith’s pathway to the financial sector had its grounding in the PGA traineeship he undertook at Queanbeyan Golf Club in the ACT under Geoff Gorham… and an opportunity to test the market for himself.
“I had a boss who was quite liberal in letting me learn as much as I could in the shop,” Smith recalls. “He decided to go overseas for five or six weeks and let me run the place while he was away. He gave me an incentive. He said whatever I could sell while he was away, he’d give me 10 per cent. Back in those days you could sell a full set of clubs for about $350.
“While he was away for that six weeks I think I sold $6,000 worth of product, which was probably as much as we’d sold all year. By him doing that it gave me the reins of how to run the shop, what you need to do to sell product at X amount of price to make the profit to pay the bills and all the rest of it.
“That was a very good learning curve to a) be doing an apprenticeship, and b) learning how to run a business at the same time. That earlier grounding does give you a great understanding of how business works. Using the PGA curriculum as an example, it was very, very good for me in going into business.
“I’m not sure all of the trainees would get that kind of experience but I was blessed with my boss in Geoff Gorham, who is still a PGA Member to this day.”
Introduced to the game by a father who played off scratch at Huntingdale Golf Club in Melbourne, Smith’s interest was sparked when the family moved to the ACT and bought a house backing onto the 10th tee at Queanbeyan. As his game developed aspirations of world domination ensued, but after seven years of slogging away on the PGA Tour of Australasia circuit reality set in.
“Like all budding PGA Members I wanted to get out there and be another Greg Norman,” says Smith, who attempted to qualify for the 1984 Open Championship at St Andrews but missed out.
“We all tested our luck and had mixed success but all in all not much success. You soon realise that you’ve got to do something else.”
Smith ultimately joined the family business and it was that background in conjunction with his golf experience that landed him the job as director of golf when Hyatt Regency Coolum opened in 1988. He spent five years in that role and then 10 more on-site running major events at the resort that morphed into a sports management company. That introduced Smith to the likes of Wayne Grady and Peter Senior, cricketers such as Ian Healy and Andrew Symonds and Brisbane AFL premiership winner Simon Black [pictured].
There were 12 Wizard home loan branches in south-east Queensland before Smith and Black made a move into the banking sector, opening a branch in Kallangur in Brisbane’s north and then the one in Southport in rather unfortunate circumstances.
“The day after we bought it was the start of the Global Financial Crisis,” Smith says. “We played catch-up for six or seven years before we got it going properly, but now it’s going really, really well and growing all the time.”
Understanding the financial strain that golf professionals – both tour and vocational – experience, Smith has gone out of his way to assist PGA Members with their lending needs, whether personal or for the business.
“With the pros who may be unsure as to exactly what they want to do, we give them a free appraisal on where they’re at with their bank and their borrowings and what their costs are,” Smith says. “If they’re on a good deal we tell them that, but if they could be on a better deal we tell them that as well and then they make a decision whether they want to move or not.
“We also have a ‘Family and Friends’ offer, which varies during the course of each year, such as waiving the application fee and other ways of giving funds back to the PGA Member. We try to give them something extra that a normal BOQ customer is not going to receive.
“I’ve been a PGA Member for 43 years and it’s been a great tag to have with the guys, especially with the guys that don’t know me or the new guys coming through.” – Tony Webeck