Graduation Day!

After 16 months,
Bob Shook jokes with instructors Gary Balliet, Dr. Teri Pistacchio, and Richard Lewis shortly after receiving his diploma. 

We’re outta here! After 16 long months, 31 of us (from 17 different states) graduated from the Golf Academy of America – Phoenix with a degree in Golf Complex Operations and Management. It’s a degree in the game of golf, the business of golf, and the technology of golf, but I like to think of it as a Master’s Degree in golf.

We join the ranks of the now 12,000 Golf Academy graduates worldwide who have flooded the golf industry since the Golf Academy first opened its doors as the San Diego Golf Academy back in 1974. As Director of Career Services Fred Barr likes to say, “Domination through saturation.” I couldn’t agree more.

Today’s graduation ceremony was held at Oakwood Golf Club in Sun Lakes. For the first time in school history, there were four Valedictorians. Three of my classmates and I earned Valedictorian honors for maintaining perfect, 4.0 Grade Point Averages (GPAs), and while all four of us could have given speeches, for the sake of time, only two of us elected to speak.

To give you a taste of what you missed, I thought I would include my Valedictorian speech here. Stay-tuned for news about the next chapter in my golfing life. My wife and I are moving back down to Tucson, and I’m currently in the process of hunting down a job:

Valedictorian Speech
Good morning! My name is Dan Bubany, and during our first semester here at the Golf Academy, I was flattered and even a little touched when my classmates nominated me to be their Class Representative. Come to realize later that it was because no one else wanted to get up early for the seven o’clock Student Affairs meetings once a semester. Thanks a lot guys. That’s going on the blog.

There were four a record four Valedictorians in our class, and two of us elected to speak.
Two of the record four Valedictorians in our class elected to speak at graduation.

A few weeks ago, our Advanced Teaching class was out at Leisure World in Mesa giving free golf lessons to several of the retirees out there. Before we got started, instructor Jay Friedman, who’s here today, introduced our group with a really nice compliment. He called our 4th Semester class, quote, “The best group he’s ever had come through the Golf Academy.” Of course, Jay says that to every graduating class.

When I went up to Jay later to ask him if he meant what he said, he replied, “I wouldn’t make that up.” Now normally, I wouldn’t question Jay, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking one of Jay’s exams, you know that I just had to ask for clarification.

In all seriousness, it was a very nice compliment, and one that was not taken lightly. For a long time now, I’ve felt like our class, the Spring of 2016, was different. Perhaps we even had a chance to do something special. We still do. If you didn’t know, we’re affectionately referred to by the faculty as “Chatty Cathys” after Mattel’s popular pull-string talking doll last pulled off the shelves in 1965. So it’s a pretty current reference.

It’s true. We’re not afraid to talk. In fact, we like the sound of our own voices so much that in Verbal Communication, one of us went so far as to deliver a persuasive speech on the benefits of “Shutting the Heck Up” as a way to reduce the amount of hot air in the classroom. We were certainly never afraid to laugh at ourselves or to make mistakes.

The story on our class is still far from written, but I’m a numbers guy and golf is a game of numbers, so here’s a breakdown of who we are by the numbers:

Campus Director Tim Eberlein organizes our final class picture. Tallest in the front, shortest in the back for a change!
Campus Director Tim Eberlein organizes our final class picture. Tallest in the front, shortest in the back for a change!

* When we started at the Golf Academy back in January of 2015, the youngest one of us was only 19, the oldest 58.

* We recently helped the Phoenix campus tie its semester attendance record of 94.1%. Over four semesters, we had the best overall attendance of any class ever. We wanted to be here. In the words of Academic Dean Tim Wilkins, “Miss a day, miss a lot.”

* 4 of us received the Golf Academy of America’s President’s Award, the highest achievement award a student can earn at the school. It’s a combination of attendance, grade point average, and certifications.

* As a class, our cumulative GPA was the highest of any class in school history.

* 8 of us passed our Club Fitting Certification Exam, the most from any one class at the GAA.

* 10 of us passed the prestigious and rigorous PGA of America Playing Ability Test. It’s 36 holes in a single day to a target score. Think of it as “cut day” on the PGA Tour. Ninety-one percent of those who took it passed. No class has ever had more people pass.

* 22 of us have secured jobs upon graduation. At 73%, it’s the highest job placement percentage at graduation of any class.

Every single one of us has something amazing to offer. We always said we wanted to make a difference in the golf industry. Well, now’s our chance. In fact, we have a very strong opinion about makes for a top-notch golfing experience, and it begins and ends with mango-scented towels!

The Spring Class of 2016
The Spring Class of 2016

Before I conclude, a thank you is certainly in order to all of the staff and faculty whom we’ve had the pleasure of coming in contact with during our time at the Golf Academy. We couldn’t have done it without you.

I’d like thank my wife, Zoe, for all of her love and support. Behind every good man is a good woman, and as many of you know, if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be here. It really helps to have a supporting wife in your corner. Zoe, none of this would be possible without you.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank my mother-in-law, Carlinda for her duties as Editor-In-Chief of my blog. She made sure all the I’s were dotted, and all the T’s were crossed… at all times! Carlinda, thank you.

And now, if the Spring Class of 2016 would please join me in standing up, turning around, and taking a moment to applaud – all of you! Family and friends, parents, grandparents, wives, girlfriends, and siblings, we thank you for making our dream of a career in the golf industry a reality.

We can’t thank you enough for your sacrifice and support. We hope to make you proud. Thank you so much for being here for us… again.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. As a great note and punctuation mark, your class finished with a placement rate of 81%! You guys have set a very high bar for the classes that follow. However, “barrs” are made to be raised, so look out. I can hear the other classes coming on strong. Great work graduates!

  2. Congrats Dan! Best of luck to you moving forward, and please let me know if there is anything I can ever help with.

  3. Dan, thank you for everything you have done for me as well as the rest of the class. I am honored to graduate with you, and it has definitely changed my life being with all of you. for life!

  4. Job well done, Dan. It was wonderful witnessing graduation of your Spring 2016 class — a truly special group of guys (smart AND handsome). And thanks for posting your valedictorian speech, as the audio quality in that room was wanting.

    Best of luck in your career in Tucson and beyond. I’ll be following you!

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