BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The year was 1988. Karl Yergey was attending Boston College as a graduate student in its history department and worked with the grounds crew at The Country Club. 

At one of the most prestigious landmarks in U.S. golf history, Yergey found his passion for the game. He admitted it was once a sport he would put on TV Sunday afternoons to fall asleep to. Yet, Yergey’s mind changed when he realized golf was a game in which it could be a competition against yourself or others. 

He was asked around 1990 if he wanted to be a golf course superintendent. Though Yergey recognized the possible letter of recommendations he could have received from The Country Club, the job included too much science for him. After all, he was in college for history, a subject he taught for over 30 years at the high school or collegiate level until 2023.

Now, at 57-years-old, Yergey is back on the golf course as an employee. Only this time, it’s with the Alabama Golf Association through the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) P.J. Boatwright Internship Program. Though the internship doesn’t hold an age cap, it’s typically filled by those in their early 20s. 

Yes, the former Advanced Placement history instructor and high school golf coach is a student again.

“It just felt like the right opportunity at the right time,” Yergey said. “As I said before, it had come down knocking on my door twice before back when it was like, ‘Do you want to be a golf course superintendent?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you want to go to a professional golf management program?’ Probably couldn’t afford it at that time. But the third time was a charm. That is so right. It was a gut instinct.”

Yergey, a native of Columbia, Maryland, gained the backing of his mother, stepmother and friends. Despite not being old enough to collect his teacher’s pension, Yergey said, the over 20-year USGA member decided to take the risk.   

In one of his last conversations with his father before he died in 2018, Yergey discussed joining a professional golf management program. Though his father didn’t think it would be a good idea at the time, Yergey said he believes his father would be OK with him making the career switch five years later. 

Instead of teaching high school students history, Karl Yergey (middle) is now learning how to run a golf tournament and the sport’s rules. (Photo courtesy of Alabama Golf Association)

Despite holding an East Coast background, Yergey was no stranger to The Yellowhammer State. In the late 2000s, a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop took him to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Edmund Pettus Bridge. Since at least 2010, he said he took a trip to Alabama once or twice a year to swing clubs on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. 

So when it was time to apply to the P.J. Boatwright Internship Program, Yergey chose the AGA in Hoover as one of the five USGA allied organizations he was interested in completing the internship at. After interviewing with AGA Director of Rules & Competitions/Course Rating Brian Scheufler and Director of Junior Golf Jeremy Gardner in January for the position, he was offered the opportunity. 

Yergey said ‘yes’ and told his boss at Saint James School in Hagerstown, Maryland, he would be leaving the classroom. Instead of lecturing high school students on the French Revolution or the Gilded Age, Yergey transitioned to studying golf tournament administration and officiating in May. 

Yergey is currently assimilating to the intricacies of how to run a golf tournament – such as marking out a course so that every golfer has a fair shot – and working to learn the rules. A lesson he grasped earlier in his life, however, still holds. 

“I think the thing that I’ve learned that matters the most in any work experience, and I kind of knew this to be true from teaching, is … that being a hard worker matters and being on time matters and having a sense of purpose matters,” Yergey said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the relationships that you build, whether that’s in casual conversation or doing the task that you’ve both been assigned to do, or you’ve all been assigned to do.”

If there’s a lightning delay, Yergey makes strides with his colleagues, even if they’re over 30 years younger than him. If he feels the need to call someone over on the course to help enforce the correct ruling, he knows it’s easier to address an adverse ruling if he has already established a connection with the golfer in an earlier meeting.  

Yergey couldn’t recall most of the tournaments he’s worked on so far during his internship, though he said he’s met some of the top amateur players in the world. The competitions are merging together for him – he’s been immersed in his work. 

“It’s been a lot of early mornings and late nights to remember some of the events, which sounds terrible,” Yergey said. “This may or may not sound really good to you, but I never even bothered to learn my schedule as a teacher because I knew I was either teaching this or that and whichever student walked in, I knew what I was teaching, so I’ve never been really good on learning schedules.”

After finishing his internship in November, Karl Yergey hopes to work full time at a U.S. golf association. (Photo courtesy of Alabama Golf Assocation)

While other interns at the AGA left earlier in August to go back to school or to other commitments, Yergey is continuing his training until mid-November. His goal is to work full time at a U.S. golf association, yet he won’t know what opportunities are available for him until they are posted toward the end of his internship. 

“Detailed oriented, effective communication, collaboration and trusted colleague” are the words listed in Yergey’s LinkedIn headline

“It’s been a great learning experience,” Yergey said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed being in the area. Again, I feel like I dove into it with both feet, whether that’s what we do on a day-to-day basis or taking advantage of the opportunities that are out there, whether that’s food or seeing sports or seeing different parts of the states and then meeting all kinds of different people.”