Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | You could say that Matt Daly was tailor-made for his current job.
The more factual statement would be that he saw the writing on the wall before most golf industry types of his generation and adjusted with the times.
Daly, the newly minted Founders Group International director of golf operations for the group’s 22 courses, has shown through the years that he was never just a teacher (although he’s certain a good one), or someone running a pro shop (he’s pretty decent at that, too) or a consumer-driven producer (yep, that, too). Really, what Daly has done has proven that today’s head golf professionals have to do a little of everything - and never forget about anything else.
“He represents a new age,” Founders President Steve Mays said. “The thing about Matt is he understands the kind of resort golf business just as well, if not better, than anyone. He’s just seen so many different products from Dunes Club to Blackmoor to Pine Lakes to Grand Dunes. He has such a wealth of experience from a wealth of facilities. Where the current head golf professionals and general manager roles fall now is you have to be able to manage food and beverage effectively. You have to be able to manage retail and merchandising effectively.”
The latter was part of what brought Daly’s name some recognition back in the fall.
In November, he was named the Carolinas PGA Merchandiser of the Year, a honor bestowed upon the man or woman who can successfully navigate that portion of a shop. At the time, Daly was the general manager and head golf professional at TPC of Myrtle Beach.
It was only the latest stop for him before moving into the Founders’ corporate office. Prior to that, he previously serves as the head golf professional at Grande Dunes Resort Club, Myrtlewood Golf Club, Pine Lakes Country Club and Blackmoor Golf Club. He had also been an assistant at Dunes Golf & Beach Club. Prior to that, he worked with or under some big names, including Michael Breed, in multiple states in the Northeast - during and immediately after he graduated from Coastal Carolina University.
“Everywhere I went, I was fortunate to work for great head professionals,” Daly said. “I really tried to draw as much from them. They were leader-by-example people. I tried to learn that. I’ve tried to be that type of person myself over the year. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many people who helped me get to where I am now.”
The February promotion was only the latest sign he’s picked up much along the way.
“He’s got a really great background,” said friend Ryan Ruddy, the head golf professional and G.M. at Myrtle Beach National. “He has a strong upbringing seeing how [other professionals] ran their operations. He’s well-seasoned. He learned from other people and blended it into his own style. I think he loves what he’s doing. You don’t get into this business unless you love it.”
As serious as Daly is at times, he’s quick to revert to talk about his love for the New England Patriot or Red Sox from his native Boston. And he’s just as fast to point out that despite an early love for golf, he realized a playing career wasn’t in the cards.
He and Ruddy were able to laugh about it all during a tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., tied to the release of the Carolinas Section awards.
“I didn’t know they were going to announce it right when we got up there,” Daly said. “Unfortunately, our games didn’t equal to the praise we were getting.”
Said Ruddy: “We didn’t come in last, so that’s a great thing. We didn’t [play] it perfectly. We knew we weren’t going to take home the trophy, there was a lot of stiff competition. But I was playing with a celebrity.”
Thankfully, Daly wanted to be an instructor, growing the game from the inside. He became a PGA Professional in January of 2006 and it took one year for him to get his first head golf professional gig.
By that point, he was already adept at the people side of the business, having done it all from picking bags to setting tee times to selling clothes to working with folks hoping to improve their swings.
“In any business, you need to know to evolve,” Daly said. “My generation was one of the first generations where you saw in golf you had to manage the business side of things. I was blessed for and with people who understand that, but still had the normal characteristics of being a true PGA professional. I had to embody that, to know as much about the game and every facet to be able to promote golf.”