#KSPDMonth Staffer Spotlight Series: Cody Franke
Throughout KemperSports Player Development Month, we’re highlighting some of our spectacular staffers who are going above and beyond to inspire a love and passion for golf in others and using the game to positively impact their local communities.
PGA Head Golf Professional
Thornberry Creek at Oneida (Oneida, WI)
Number of years spent at current course:
I have been a KemperSports employee for eight years, the last seven of which were spent at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert, CA. I recently joined the team at Thornberry Creek at Oneida in February 2023.
Total years worked in the golf industry: 10
How were you introduced to the game of golf?
My brother, who is also a PGA member, and myself were introduced to the game of golf through our grandparents. We grew up on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin in Antioch, IL, and the local pro would let my grandparents take us to play just hole one and two a few times a week. That’s all we could handle at age 5.
What motivated you to pursue a career in the golf industry?
I have been fortunate enough to always enjoy my time while at the course. My playing ability allowed me to play golf at a high level in high school and continue my career in college. When learning that operators can still stay around the game enough, play a little and manage the business, I was hooked. Continued learning and education is very important now to staying in tune with industry trends and market changes.
What does Player Development Month mean to you?
To me, Player Development Month is when my students get to experience that “Aha!” moment in their golf careers. This month is oftentimes when players might take their first lesson, look to get back into the sport after taking some time away or grow their knowledge of the sport with others. The highest reward I get is when my student’s face lights up hitting a great shot, and you can tell they are hooked.
What makes your property’s player development program successful?
Thornberry Creek at Oneida has made a consistent push in trying to reach our players, new golfers and demographic digitally. Our “Pro Tip Tuesday” series (1 time per week videos) have amassed over 20,000 views. Our concept is simple: Make a sub-one minute video, and cover one golf skill a week, being sure to relate that topic in a way that’s easy for the viewer to understand.
What’s the one piece of advice you think all beginners (kids and adults alike) can benefit from hearing when first taking up the game or returning to the game after an extended time away?
I always ask my students either when they begin golf or if they are returning to the sport after a break, “Do you know how to ride a bike?” Almost all of them say yes. I then talk about training wheels. When you first learn to ride a bike, parents use training wheels because it is so new. Then when you become proficient with training wheels, they are taken off, but the parent still stays by with a supporting hand. As we all can remember, you still fall from time to time, but after more practice you can start riding by yourself.
For me, the training wheels in golf are tees! While it may be against the rules of golf to use tees from every spot on the course during a normal competition or round, it’s an incredibly useful tool for people just starting out or getting back into the game. Allowing them to use this “training wheel” helps to not only speed up play, but helps them gain more confidence and have more fun. Similar to the bike analogy, when they prove they no longer need the tee, remove it.
We don’t ask people who learn how to shoot basketballs to start shooting from the NBA three-point line. People who have never bowled before use bumpers, new drivers of cars start in parking lots and not highways. Train the skills in ways that the students can succeed and then continue to build without the training wheels.
Looking to the future of the game, how do you see player development programming and instruction evolving?
The largest areas to grow the sport continue to be in juniors followed by the female demographic. The Covid pandemic gave the sport of golf a huge boost, and now, retaining these new golfers is very important.
Growth through PGA Jr. League, camps and clinics can only make the golf industry as a whole stronger. Will those juniors at some point move away and support another golf course, absolutely. But keep in mind that facilities that have junior programs also then can focus on attracting curious adults, grandparents, etc.
What’s your advice to other facilities looking to take their player development programming to the next level?
Player development does not have to be the largest program in year one. It just needs to start somewhere. When starting out, work with your team to do what’s feasible and then look for opportunities to build and grow your programming and offerings. It can be as simple as giving more additional lesson or clinic a week or scheduling a family day offering of nine holes followed by ice cream. It’s all about giving people a reason to come to your course even if they have never thought about it before.
To learn more about KemperSports Player Development Month, visit kempersports.com/growthegame.
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