A fellow PGA professional convinced Mark Lazenby that he had the skills required to move into management.

It’s an often-repeated phrase from friends to those thinking about starting a family: if you wait until you’re ready to have kids, you’ll never have them. Part of that truth belongs to the simple fact that nothing can prepare you fully for what comes with being a parent; part of it is the reality of how much you have to learn along the way.

Mark Lazenby, a PGA professional for the past 21 years, questioned whether his skill set was enough to make a move into management. Did he have the knowledge to read a balance sheet? Could he cast a critical eye over the food and beverage operation and suggest improvements? Did he have the capacity to bring staff together and have them all working towards a common goal?

The role of a general manager is diverse and fluid, and it wasn’t until Lazenby heard Oatlands Golf Club general manager Sam Howe speak at a PGA leadership seminar that he understood that no one is completely ready to take that step.

“What really stood out for me was understanding that sometimes we can be too self-critical in feeling like we need to know everything,” Lazenby says.

“One of the things Sam said was that it is absolutely OK at times to not be the smartest person in the room. It’s OK to sit back and listen, take on board rather than having to be the messiah who knows absolutely everything.

“During a PGA webinar with fellow PGA professionals David Tapping and David Wren [general manager of Melbourne Golf Park and executive general manager at Rosanna Golf Club, respectively], the question was asked as to when they knew they were ready to take on that role. Dave Tapping said it was two years into the job.

“To hear people talk like that, who I respect greatly, gave me that bit of confidence to throw my hat in the ring and take that next step, which is what
I did.”

The position that Lazenby applied for was as general manager of Cardinia Beaconhills Golf Club in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, a position he was appointed to in July.

Lazenby undertook his PGA training at Royal Fremantle Golf Club before seeking opportunities overseas within the golf industry. After four years in Europe, he broadened his professional perspective by spending 11 years in Asia. That included stints at the prestigious Singapore Island Country Club and Sentosa Golf Club, experiences that emphasised the importance of the customer experience.

“Incredibly high-end facilities that came with expectations of how you dealt with people with various needs, be they high net-worth individuals or not,” Lazenby explained.

He put that knowledge to good use when he joined Anthony Sinclair at Federal Golf Club in Canberra. The general manager at Federal and the 2021 NSW/ACT Management Professional of the Year, Sinclair was embarking on enhancing the member-value proposition when Lazenby joined as golf operations manager in October 2018.

“It was a change of culture that we tried to instill to create a facility that was financially strong but also had that real feeling of a facility where people wanted to spend time,” Lazenby adds. “We increased the membership, we increased the number of rounds and turned it into a facility where people really wanted to be.”

In the early stages of the next phase of his career, Lazenby is already advancing his education. The board at Cardinia Beaconhills recently supported his attendance at a business management conference, confident it will lead to a stronger club in future.

That week of education advancement also highlighted to Lazenby the willingness of other general managers to share their accumulated wealth of knowledge anytime he cares to ask. And when he is confronted by a situation he is not particularly sure how to handle, Lazenby will call upon two decades of trying to help people solve the problems with their golf swing.

“No one comes and has a lesson when they’re playing their best; they tend to only come to you when they’re at their worst,” Lazenby reasons. “It’s having that idea of how to deal with people and make sure that everyone’s needs are respected and being looked after.”

• There are a wide range of careers accessible within the golf industry via the PGA Learning Hub. For more information on ways to work within golf, visit pga.org.au/education/