TAMPA Being a club professional alone is a full time job – meeting members’ needs, teaching lessons, and running an 18-hole course.
For Jay Pittman, it’s a lot more than that. He is the director of golf at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar, a 36-hole setup and one of the most prestigious in the Tampa Bay area. He is also the go-to guy for four other prominent area courses: Cross Bay, Countryside, Tampa Palms and Hunters Creek.
It keeps Pittman busy, but he still spends most of his time at East Lake Woodlands. He got his start at the world famous Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, and brought his love of the game to Tampa.
“We were doing great when I got here, but it’s always a challenge to keep the members happy,” Pittman said. “We have had a steady climb and that says a lot about the quality of the two courses here. We are starting to see real growth.”
Pittman is a North Carolina native who started playing in tournaments at the age of 8. His game improved but not to the point where he felt he could make a serious living, so he became interested in course management. After Pinehurst, he moved to a course in Cincinnati and, after a stint in South Florida, found himself at East Lake Woodlands in 2007.
“I’ve been playing golf my whole life and always loved Florida, so it was natural to come here,” Pittman said. “I had a decent college career.”
Pittman spent two years playing at Campbell University and Atlanta Christian before deciding it was time to try to juggle the business side of golf with his aspirations of making it as a professional golfer.
Pittman played the minitours but, as he said, he was going from driving a $10,000 Cadillac to being driven in a $400,000 Greyhound bus.
“I started to realize that I had to be better than I thought I would have to be,” Pittman said. “It’s tough out there.”
Pittman hasn’t completely blocked out the idea of joining the Champions Tour on an infrequent basis. But he knows his main responsibility is to East Lake Woodlands. He has been responsible for recent locker room renovations, redoing the bunkers on the South Course, and renovating the practice tees. He also handles issues that arise at the other four clubs, which doesn’t leave a lot of times to hone his own game.
“It’s a big brother relationship with the other courses,” Pittman said. “All of those club pros report to me but I enjoy it. It’s a challenge.”
East Lake Woodlands has hosted USGA qualifying, the Outback High School Invitational, and Futures Tour events for fledgling LPGA players.
There’s not a lot of time on the course, but Pittman said he knows he can still compete.
“I still get to get out there,” Pittman said. “I am a full-time director of golf instruction, but I just need to focus more on my practicing. I enjoy what I am doing and I get to do it at a great place.”