2020 was a different year for everyone in golf, from course owners to golfers to professionals.
With forced closures for over three months of the year, golf professionals were effectively shut down during the closures.
While there were challenges, there were also opportunities and Kinsale based PGA Professional Ian Stafford definitely took advantage of the opportunities.
As well as getting to spend more time with his family, Ian has continued his own habit of furthering his professional qualifications. Having started his PGA training in 2000, Stafford didn’t stop with his PGA qualification.
In 2016 he achieved Level 3 certification from the PGA, and in 2018 he was named a PGA Fellow.
During 2020 he focused on specific areas to improve his credentials as a leading teaching professional.
"I completed levels 1 & 2 of the Elite Performance Coach course,” explained Ian.
"And I’m currently half-way through the final phase of this course and hopefully I will qualify as a Master Performance Coach in early 2021.” The performance coach qualification is not golf specific, and show Ian’s willingness to explore all aspects of teaching in order to deepen to approach he has when working with golfers.
He also took in a golf related course during the downtime.
“I have always had in interest in doing the Wedge Matrix short game course which is run by tour short game coach James Ridyard,” added Stafford.
“This was always run in either the States or Central Europe and you had to attend in person but the pandemic allowed for those course to be run online over seven weeks.
"I have to say I really enjoyed doing the course and I now look at short game instruction in a completely different light than I did before and I’m very pleased to have joined the small group of around forty worldwide WedgeMatrix Accredited Coaches.
"Looking back now 7 months on I think professionally the break was a blessing in disguise, it gave me the chance to reflect on where I needed to improve as a coach and go and do something about it."
PGA Professsionals are mostly self-employed contractors, and for teaching professional like Ian, he’s dependent on delivering lessons and courses to earn a living.
The closure in March had a big short-term effect on most pro’s but the sure in golf from May onwards meant there was a busy summer ahead for everyone.
Balancing family and work commitments can be a tough job for busy parents so Ian made of the best of his time away from the range.
“Obviously going into the lockdown there was a lot of fear in terms of how the virus was going to affect every aspect of life for everyone not just how it was going to affect me professionally.
" I had actually stopped working a few days in advance of the lockdown as my wife Norienne had been drafted into Covid testing from her normal speech therapist job.
"We didn’t know what the implications of that would be so with everyone’s safety in mind I took a step back. Apart from the financial implications of not being able to work during one of the busiest periods of the year, the lockdown gave me some opportunities I could never have imagined.
"Personally I got to spend some uninterrupted time with my 2 children Alannah (7) and Roraidh (4).”
And the time off allowed Ian to reset how he approaches work.
“As a golf coach I find it quite hard to switch off, I’m always thinking about something and with some of my players based in different time zones I could find myself coaching or reviewing performances at any hour of the day so the period we had then when there was absolutely no golf happening was absolutely invaluable.
"It was invaluable to have that time with the kids but also to teach me that it is possible to switch off, I now try to tie up any loose ends from the day before I get home or just set a time aside to do the things I need to do and have some proper time with my family.”
And while Ian had another break in November, he’s now back into the swing of things.
His top student John Murphy recently returned home from the US recently so the pair are working hard.
He’s busy with lessons and the next few months promise to be a busy with many golfers buying gift vouchers from his website.
After the disruption of 2020, it looks like there will be a return to normal in 2021.