PGA Master Professional Paul Gibbons joined The PGA in 1982 and served under the stewardship of former PGA Captain Nicky Lumb. Gibbons’ passion for retail took him overseas and it’s in Asia where he has made his mark.
How did you get into golf?
I was 11 years old and on holiday in North Wales, when introduced to a pitch-and-putt course and have been hooked ever since.
What made you go down the wholesale and retail route as a PGA Professional?
I was fortunate to learn from Nicky Lumb for five years. His dynamic and often radical approach to retailing and managing a thriving business had a lasting impression. I was nowhere near good enough to play for a living and struggled with many hours of teaching beginners. I have a passion for engaging people and acquired the ability to sell, hence my entire career evolved around these disciplines.
Where did your interest for working abroad come from?
A burning desire to keep moving, bettering myself and exploring both work and life opportunities. I got bored easily and always needed a challenge. I was blessed that my wife Jane, followed my passion to be on the move. I truly believed at a young age that money should not be the primary motivation, instead trying to shape a career with various experiences outside of one’s comfort zone and this is what I did.
What’s the best thing about working overseas?
I would have to say the recognition and respect. I have found less competition and more opportunity to thrive abroad although that is changing as the world becomes a smaller place. The accreditation of being a member of a professional body and its history is important, especially in Asia.
Where did the idea of MST Golf Management come from and how successful has it been?
MST stands literally for Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. A golf retail business developed by two Malaysian childhood friends over a period of more than 30 years. I joined the company 11 years ago to build the academy and events business and set the structure for us to venture into mainstream sports.
Our MST Academy has created the largest Junior Golf Development Program in Malaysia with over 200 students weekly and is considered one of the most structured and detailed junior golf development programs in South East Asia.
Tell us about your joint venture with Sports Direct and how you’re opening new stores in Malaysia?
We started as a licensee with Sports Direct almost 10 years ago, subsequently evolving into a joint venture as part of Sports Direct PLC, with the company allowing us the autonomy to adapt the business to the Asian environment. We will continue to grow domestically at about 20 per cent over the next three years, adding the store count to close to 40.
What steps should PGA Professionals take to help grow the game overseas?
We must promote all aspects of the golf game as a business, not just a sport, considering it employs and supports so many associated industries around the world. Sustainability is only achieved with a balanced commercial approach and I’m enthused to hear more professionals speak out about low-cost access and grass roots engagement, as well as career diversification beyond the traditional obligations of a PGA Member.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I have tremendous diversification, for example, mentoring my team and focusing their abundant energy on effective retailing. We will soon have over 800 staff in the sports division with almost 100 based in our HQ, most of whom are at least 20 years my junior, therefore quite a challenge! In more recent years, I have also assisted the Malaysian government, to evaluate and drive golf as a vehicle for Tourism, selling the country around the natural topography and its unique ambience.
What would you have done if you hadn’t been a PGA Professional?
I honestly have no idea, though I would have eventually identified my strengths and followed my passion for sport, travel and leading others.