Tom Colceri - Big Picture Golf
Tom is truly the guru of golf in the Southwest. Tom grew up in the golf-rich Phoenix/Scottsdale area, one of the world’s top golf destinations. His career spans the golf, hospitality, and resort industries, where he has been involved in virtually every aspect for 30 years. He has worked in private organizations like Quintero Golf and Country Club, to large, worldwide corporations like Marriott. Tom played competitive golf on the junior, college, and professional levels. His positions range from traditional golf professional, to Vice President of Business Development.
He has vast experience including Golf Course Operations and Management, (Marriott, Troon Golf, DMB Associates, OB Sports), Private Club Sales and Marketing, (Quintero, Desert Mountain Properties and DMB Communities), Project Coordination, (Quintero), and Golf Course Development and Design, (Graham and Panks International). Tom has been a member of numerous boards over the years. Some of these include Arizona Junior Golf Association, the PGA of America (Southwest Section and National Communications/PR Committee), Arizona Office of Tourism (Advisory), Golf Industry Association (President/Board) Peoria Sister Commission with Northern Ireland, Golf and Tourism Division, (Chair).
How old were you when you got started in golf and what eventually pulled you into becoming a golf professional?
Elementary school is when I started trying to play golf. I say trying, because there was no instruction and I was left to my own devises learning the game. My Dad let me tag along to the course with him on weekends when he played with his buddies. I was able to play 9 holes alone on the back side early in the morning and then fend for myself for the rest of the day. That often included practice putting (that was free and I could do it for hours), picking up range balls and just hanging around the course.
How do you stay current with the latest developments in teaching methods?
I enjoy teaching and helping others connect with ideas they can associate with. Watching golfers, witnessing their mistakes and giving demonstrations to foster improvement for them is very rewarding. Also, collaborating with other teaching professionals keeps me current with new ideas and ways to teach with success.
What are 2 trends in golf that you’re excited about?
Technology is where it is now and where we will continue to be. From the tools that share data on ball flight, speed, launch, digital feedback on posture, weight transfer and much more we can make learning and playing golf much more interesting and hopefully fun. The same goes for connected golf car technology and new digital applications that are informational, educational, entertaining and interactive. It’s an exciting time for the game and a key component for keeping golf relevant and enticing into the future is technology.
Do you specialize in teaching any facets of the game?
I like to focus on generalizations and key fundamentals that won’t confuse pupils. The simpler I can keep things, the better chance we can expect to see a good connection and improvement. I also enjoy the mental side of the game and witnessing how every person takes on their own golf personality for hitting the ball and playing the game. The subject has no end and is always fascinating to discuss and improve upon this mental aspect of the game.
What sets you apart from other golf professionals?
My ability to quickly assess and help a struggling player with a simple idea that will help them hit solid shots and achieve more success. I also have enjoyed a unique career in the golf business that has embarked on many different aspects of the game. Playing, operations, teaching, design/development, and sales roles have given me a very well rounded look of the game in general.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
The addition of new players as a result of the pandemic. Witnessing participation rise with players of all walks of life who have come to recognize the value of all the game has to offer is very exciting. My hope is that most of these new players will have had such enjoyment and great experiences with the game and the social benefits that they will be golfers for life.
What has been your most challenging experience with a student and how did you handle it? How did you overcome it?
I had a woman pass out of me during a lesson. She fell forward straight on to me and I was forced to catch her from hitting the ground face first. My hands somehow went right into each of her armpits to keep her upright and I literally dragged her that way to a nearby chair to sit down. It’s a much longer story but I could see the “I may pass out from the Arizona heat” look in her eyes early on. When she came to, I asked her if she had been drinking any water that day. She replied with “No, but I did have four Gin and Tonics.” “That’ll do it,” I said.
Do you actively play competitive golf? Any recent bragworthy performances you’d like to share?
I have only been able to play in local PGA Section and charity fund raiser type events as of late. My favorite are two-person team events with skins so there’s always a chance to win something. Most of all it’s a great way to see friends from the business, tell old stories and create new memories.
Is there a highlight from your career in golf that stands out above the rest?
Two. Achieving my PGA membership was a big deal. It was hard, time consuming and entailed many disciplines. Then there was the PAT, Players Ability Test. High pressure to achieve (or better) the target score to complete the last required phase to become a PGA Professional. When I was one of three players who qualified from the tournament out of a large group of players I felt like I had won the US Open. No prize money, no media, no spectators but I made it for life as a PGA Professional and was thrilled!
The other would be my participation on our PGA Southwest Section Board and committees. Giving back to the game in leadership and serving as a example to other professional is something I am very proud of.
Any advice for someone considering pursuing a career as a golf teaching professional?
Examine the many different roles and nuances there are in the business. Find the areas that resonate with you best. Identify the person you see in the role you want to be and ask them for help and guidance. Most people love to help someone passionate about their pursuit in the game.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
I think there is room for the traditional game, its rules, traditions and values. But I also believe we need to grow and evolve where the newer, younger player is wanting the game to go. Encouraging new players to come to the course and have fun without worrying about the rules, dress code and the old game they have no interest or can relate. We can be more things to more players (and would-be players) if we keep experimenting, asking our customers what they want…. and then giving it to them.