Mentors and supporters make difference for golf entrepreneur

Jan 27, 2011

Put in the time it takes to be successful. That's Sean Saunder's suggestion to fellow golf professionals with an entrepreneurial bent.

Since his 2005 graduation from Golf Academy of America in Phoenix, Saunders, a PGA Professional, has built a solid teaching business in the Springfield, MO area. It's a work in progress, he says, with a lot of support from others along the way. The time and the work, however, are starting to pay off for Saunders and his golf teaching business, SWC Golf.

His journey? First, inspiration from Golf Academy of America instructors Tim Eberlein (Campus Director in Phoenix) and Richard Iorio (now Campus Director in San Diego). Then, service as Assistant Golf Professional under Master PGA Professional Mitch Merrill at Sioux City Country Club. Finally, starting SWC Golf--and working part-time at golf stores and odd jobs to help pay the bills.

"I always had the vision of teaching full-time and eventually creating my own golf academy," he said. "I just didn't know where and how long it would take."

Saunders landed in Springfield, MO (home of his childhood hero Payne Stewart) and it took about three years before he found his niche and learned how to run a successful teaching business. With the lagging economy, he put a lot of his energy into networking and promoting.

BNI (Business Networking International) allowed Saunders to get connected in the Springfield business community, with a majority of his clients coming from those referrals. He also credits business coach Don Harkey with Galt Consulting and Brett Curry of Curry Marketing for helping him develop solid business systems and creating a local brand.

Saunders owns a golf tourism site,, and recently co-developed a golf-specific fitness program. He also teaches at LedgeStone Country Club in Branson, MO during the season. If that weren't enough, he developed a unique golf school called The NEXT LEVEL Program in partnership with several Ozarks golf courses.

Saunders has solid advice for other enterprising golfers.

"Your focus can't be solely on making money or you will fail. You have to be passionate about helping people and building relationships."