THERE will be plenty of folk who still harbour the hoary stereotype of the club professional as someone who flogs a few crested V-neck sweaters and the odd Mars bar in the shop, dishes out some lessons and tightens up the gap between the ferrule and hosel on auld Ronnie’s trusty 5-iron.

These days, of course, a PGA pro tends to perform more roles than Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets. From club management, coaching, finance, PR and retail to dealing with rampant technological advancements in order to keep on top of tee-times, fixtures, handicapping and general admin, the club-professional position has evolved and diversified and their expertise, experience, industry and innovation is spread across all sorts of fronts. And, yes, they still have to perform running repairs on auld Ronnie’s sticks. Forget working 9 to 5. The shift patterns would have Dolly Parton re-writing the lyrics to her well-kent hit.

It can be a dynamic, fulfilling yet highly demanding job and, for some, the all-consuming nature of it can become unbearable. Michael McAllan knows all about that.

Now happily working away as one of the PGA professionals at Nairn, an extremely challenging end to his nine-year tenure at Elgin saw him spiral into the bleak depths of despair. Against a tumultuous backdrop, which included the then club manager being charged with embezzling £45,000 as well as the rigours of an industry emerging from the Covid pandemic, McAllan was overwhelmed by anxiety and depression.

“You don’t realise you’re going down a dangerous path until you get there,” he said of this descent. “I was very stressed, the workload was huge and I was tipped over the edge. I was at a very low ebb and thought I was done and dusted. I was a classic club pro on a retainer and had to work a notice and close my business when I really should’ve been signed off. I then signed on for job seekers allowance but couldn’t look for a job because I simply wasn’t well enough. I had to make

a huge change to recover and stay

in golf.”

Professionally, personally and psychologically, McAllan is now refreshed and re-energised and is using that dark chapter in his life to benefit others. While grateful to The PGA for helping him access the assistance and counselling he needed during his struggles, the 47-year-old has put all his experiences into a hefty, wide-ranging document of insights which he hopes can be developed and incorporated into an official manual by the Association. In a nutshell, it’s a survival guide for new club professionals which is so comprehensive, you half expect it to feature instructions on starting a campfire with a snapped putter shaft and a bit of flint.

“I don’t think young guys realise how all-consuming a club pro job can be,” said McAllan, who uses writing as a cathartic release now that he has the clarity of thought to express his creativity. “If you’re single, in your early 20s and you’re not quite ready for family then it’s a dream job because you can chuck as much energy at it as you like. But that’s not real life because people do get in relationships and start families and it’s not healthy to be working six or seven days a week. I was so switched on, so ensconced in it, I couldn’t be there for my family. That’s not a life for anyone. If you don’t give a club pro room to breathe, they’ll burn out eventually.

“I got some great support but I think what’s missing is the pre-emptive assistance and advice. That’s what this document touches on. I’ve tried to pinpoint wee triggers, things to share and things to put in place at the club before you get too entrenched in bad practices that are not good for your mental health. You need to give yourself space and separation from the job or it will become very isolating.

“The job of a club pro has changed massively. In a different era, they may not have had the same stresses, the expectations were maybe not as high and the competition wasn’t as great. It’s always been a multi-tasking job but a club pro can end up doing too much. The extra duties come on board and you get swamped. I backed myself into an alley. I recovered but I want to help others avoid going down the same rocky road.”