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AJGA Trailblazers: From Summer Intern Teammates to Full-Time Staff

Andrew Wagner, Ty Kempf and Phil Arrigo share their experiences from the internship to full-time staff
Team 3 2021

This week in the AJGA Trailblazer Spotlight Series, we highlight three current AJGA staff members, Phil Arrigo, Andrew Wagner and Ty Kempf. These three Summer Operations Interns traveled to the Northeast region on the same team in 2021. Wagner and Kempf still find themselves in the Operations department as full-time Tournament Directors, while Arrigo works in Player Services as Manager, Player Services.

Tell us about your background and what led you to working with the AJGA.

Kempf: I played all types of sports growing up and majored in sports administration when I went to college. I played collegiate baseball and once the season finished, we [baseball teammates] would go out and hit balls at the local course. I needed an internship to graduate, and I knew someone who did the AJGA Internship a year prior. They convinced me to apply for the Summer Operations Internship.

Wagner: I started playing golf at a young age and continued playing on my high school’s and college’s club teams. I eventually majored in public relations as I wanted to do social media in the sports industry. I knew working in golf was a possibility as I loved it so much and someone mentioned the AJGA Internship, so I thought I’d give it a shot and applied for the Communications Internship. I applied for the Communications Internship due to my interest in social media, but later applied for the Operations Internship as well, which I ended up getting.

Arrigo: I always loved sports, but I never played golf competitively, it was always just for fun. I knew I wanted to work in sports, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a business management major with a sports management minor. I felt like I had a pretty good operations background after college, and I found the AJGA Internship through Teamwork Online. I applied to both Operations and Communications Internships, but my interest was on the operations side.

When did you realize that the AJGA was where you wanted to work?

Arrigo: I think the more research I did on the AJGA outside of the application process, the more I saw the reputation the AJGA has from a professional development standpoint. We did our IRW [Intern Recruiting Weekend] virtually due to the pandemic, so once I arrived at headquarters for summer training, I immediately knew there was a different energy, and this was a good place to work.

Kempf: I knew once I got the interview, and they went through the details for a day in a life. The traveling aspect is a huge plus, but just working in the sports industry, junior golf and getting into something I wasn’t comfortable with drew me in.

Wagner: For me, it was about halfway through that first day of training. The staff showed how much they cared about their interns, and they treated us like full-time staff. All the people we worked with, especially our intern team as we clicked right away during summer training, made me immediately realize that this was going to be a lot of fun.

team 3 2021.2

What was one of your favorite memories as a team during the AJGA Internship?

Kempf: Over the summer we were at Polo [RLX Ralph Lauren Junior Classic] at Liberty National Golf Course. Running that match play event and seeing the course for what it is was awesome. Later that summer, we had to do 36 holes in one day because we were in Connecticut and there was weather coming in from a Hurricane.

Wagner: We had to do 36 holes in one day for the second and third rounds since the weather was going to cancel the final round. We hustled to get everything done and then the weather didn’t even hit, which was kind of a big pay-out for us.

Arrigo: We then took a train to Manhattan and went to the first round of The Northern and got to see the course during a PGA TOUR event and compare it to the AJGA Polo event.

How have you professionally developed through the last two years you’ve been full-time?

Kempf: I was familiar with what the Tournament Director role does during the internship but unfamiliar with running the tournaments and leading the interns. Being the leader of an event and having a team of eight to nine interns around my age listening to me was a reality check, especially during my first year as a Tournament Director. One thing I have improved on is having better communication skills, building confidence in becoming a leader and knowing that I have their best interest in mind and they have mine as well.

Arrigo: The Player Services department is a big change of pace from the Operations Internship. All my previous experiences were in operations and facility management, so I never had a more administrative role in a professional setting. Now I have a good combination of operations and administrative experience. There are customer service aspects in the Operations Internship through the constant interaction with players and stakeholders, but being on the phones and responding to emails in Player Services has given that to me even more regularly. I have sharpened my customer service skills in that aspect.

How would you describe the culture at the AJGA?

Wagner: It’s just one big family. We’re all young and striving towards the same goal. We all hang out inside and outside of work and these people are some of my best friends. The AJGA feels more like a family than it is just an organization.

Arrigo: At events or in the office, the AJGA always does the little things that help build that bond between everyone. We have strong leadership here from the department heads to Stephen [Hamblin, Executive Director]. You don’t feel intimidated here and feel like you can sit down and voice your ideas with anybody, which makes this a healthy environment for everybody.

Kempf: The family atmosphere is spot on, and everybody has their best interest in mind and honestly wants to help get us all to the next step professionally. It may be cliché, but the AJGA takes to heart the phrase ‘work hard play hard’ where all the staff works extra hard in the spring and summer, and in the fall, they provide us with some extra appreciation and rest.

team 3 2021.3

What are some of your future career goals?

Arrigo: I am satisfied and see the potential for growth here. Whether it’s here or in professional sports, I think I want to take what I’m learning from an administrative standpoint and what I learned from an operations standpoint and try to continue to make myself as well-rounded as possible.

Wagner: I want to stay in golf, specifically in tournament operations as I love to be on-site, hands-on and have those interactions with people. Right now, I am happy but always in the mindset of seeing what opportunities come around in the future.

Kempf: I didn’t know I wanted to be in golf growing up and am so grateful to be at the AJGA right now. It’s a great first job to get you acclimated to everything such as Finance, Player Services, Communications and of course Operations. My future goal is to be involved with multiple sports and see that side of the industry.

What advice do you have for others considering the AJGA Internship?

Wagner: Take every opportunity you can and run with it. With how competitive this internship is you’re at the top in the world of sports. Take every opportunity that you can and make sure you give 110% of your time and the results will show.

Kempf: Take that leap of faith. Trust yourself, go with your gut and work hard. I took that leap of faith coming from Kansas and I worked hard and have worked my way up. People will notice if you work hard and that’s how you build those connections.

Arrigo: The golf industry is a small world. The connections I’ve made through the internship and my full-time experience have been immense. One girl on our intern team went to work for the PGA TOUR and one for The Masters straight out of the internship. This shows that the connections you make just from your team could become great connections to you in the future.