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FGCU PGA Golf Management Program Takes Long-Awaited Trip to Scotland

Trip+attendees+gathered+at+the+Swilican+Bridge+at+St.+Andrews.
PGA Golf Management Program Director, Tara McKenna
Trip attendees gathered at the Swilican Bridge at St. Andrews.

The FGCU PGA Golf Management program took its biennial trip to the United Kingdom in May for the first time since Covid restrictions were lifted.

The program director, Tara McKenna, has been alternating trip destinations between Scotland and Ireland since 2015. This year’s trip took her and her students to the Highlands area of Northern Scotland.

“It’s the home of golf, where golf was born. And Ireland is its kissing cousin,” she said.

McKenna spent 18 years as a golf professional in the New England area for seven years until she became the program director at FGCU in May 2010.

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“It’s not common for women to be in the position of leadership in golf. I can help all students in my program navigate their memberships with men and women,” she said.

The majority of the trip’s attendees are students in the program, but McKenna’s trips are not officially affiliated with FGCU.

“It’s not an FGCU thing; it’s a golf travel thing. Anyone over 18 can travel,” she said.

This year’s trip comprised eight students, two faculty members and one parent.

Although the attendees cover the entire trip cost themselves, McKenna facilitates their bookings through a U.S.-based tour operator.

“I work with a third-party tour operator that happens to be based here in the U.S. in Bonita [Springs]. Other tour operators are based over in the UK, so then there’s the euro and pound conversion concern, which can be a pain. And there’s a time difference when waiting for that communication response,” she said.

Booking through the tour operator offers additional benefits, including a group host, dedicated coach driver and a secondary vehicle, typically a small sprinter van based on group size.

“I only have two rules, and you can write these down. Don’t be late for golf. Don’t puke on the bus,” she said.

The group visited a variety of courses in Northern Scotland, but McKenna highlighted the Royal Dornoch and St. Andrews. According to her, St. Andrews is the pinnacle of all European golf destinations.

A typical day in Scotland included a Scottish breakfast, tee-time on historical golf courses and visits to old monuments and distilleries like Tomatin Distillery in Inverness and Dunrobin Castle. While golfing is the trip’s primary focus, McKenna emphasized the importance of exploring the history of the areas they visit.

Trip attendees gathered at Dunrobin Castle. (PGA Golf Management Program Director, Tara McKenna)

Senior Emily Nesbitt participated in the Scotland trip for the first time.

“There are buildings from like, the 1700s. Just the history, I mean, you see it on TV but then you go there, and it’s nothing like what you’ve seen,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt was adopted from Russia when she was 18 months old and grew up in Vienna, Virginia. She moved to her parents’ vacation home in Naples, Florida, in 2021, when she and McKenna connected over a virtual open house for recruitment at FGCU.

“FGCU is the number one golf program in the country,” Nesbitt said.

“That’s an educated opinion by the way, but we do have top enrollment,” McKenna said.

FGCU is one of 17 PGA-accredited universities offering a PGA Golf Management degree program and the only one in Florida.

Students who participate in McKenna’s trips are one step ahead in their future golf careers. Nesbitt can now coordinate her own trips with members of her future facility because she has travel experience.

McKenna shares her overseas memories and experiences with her new freshman class every year to build excitement for their upcoming opportunity to join. The next trip is planned for Northern Ireland in 2025.

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Cristina Pop, Eagle News Assistant Opinion Editor
Cristina Pop is majoring in journalism. She is a new addition to our team of editors, which has been her dream since she started grading papers with her English teacher in 7th grade and writing for her personal Christian blog. Aside from writing, Cristina enjoys volleyball and sunset swimming at the beach.

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