One of the main goals for the MGA Foundation’s GOLFWORKS program is to expose young men and women to lifelong lessons through the sport of golf. Many who participate in the program express how much an internship has helped them grow. Ben Cruz, a second-year intern at Bonnie Briar Country Club, shared that his experience in the GOLFWORKS program has helped him shape his future.
The GOLFWORKS program places student interns at MGA member clubs and facilities where they spend the summer working in various areas of the club industry. Interns learn from professionals and may spend time working in the golf shop, as part of the food and beverage service, on the grounds staff, or in clubhouse operations. For many, this is a “first job” and provides professional and life lessons that help interns succeed with their future education plans and careers.
Cruz started the GOLFWORKS internship while he was a senior in high school. He admits he did not know a lot about golf when he first started.
“It was my first time at a golf course when I had my first day of work,” said Cruz. “I was really shy and a little bit nervous when I started because I didn’t know exactly what to do or how to act.”
Thanks to guidance and direction from James Pilla, the Starter and Caddie Manager at Bonnie Briar, Cruz’s comfort level grew exponentially over the first few weeks.
“When he came in he was a little shy, but never unsure of himself,” said Pilla. “After a few weeks he already excelling at his job.”
Cruz primarily assisted Pilla greet club members when they arrived on property, take their clubs, and set them up for their round. Cruz would clean clubs, assist in the bag room and aid in any other task that was needed.
“He picked up on everything so quickly that before his first year was over, I could trust him with anything I asked,” said Pilla. “I practically felt like I could leave him for the day and come back and know that everything had run smoothly while I was gone.”
“I learned a lot on the business side of it my first year,” said Cruz. “Just how much goes into the operation and even the little things it takes to be successful. I tried to learn as much as possible.”
Coming into his second year at Bonnie Briar, Cruz decided to take up golf as a sport. He plays as much as he can at Bonnie Briar and expressed a desire to take lessons in the future. Off of the green grass, Cruz was once again a model employee at the club.
“I felt a lot more comfortable year two,” said Cruz. “I know all the members now and James [Pilla] is such a big help. We have a great relationship and even talk outside of work. He’s been a really good guy to look up to.”
Cruz is currently attending Monroe College’s New Rochelle Campus. He is studying Business Management and plans to minor in Finance.
“[Business Management] has interested me since about 10th or 11th grade,” said Cruz. “My goal for the next couple years is to learn as much as I can, hopefully get an internship with a good company like JP Morgan and put myself in a good position for when I graduate.”
Cruz’s long-term career goal revolves around the banking industry and says that his two years at Bonnie Briar have set him up for success.
“The number of connections you make in a job like this are valuable. When I tell people my major, they are always eager to listen and offer help if they can.”
Not only has Cruz helped himself professionally, but through the GOLFWORKS internship, he was qualified for an opportunity that took the financial burden of college off his shoulders. This summer, after his second year at Bonnie Briar, Cruz was awarded a scholarship from the Westchester Golf Association Caddie Scholarship Fund.
“When I first got this internship, I just looked at it as a great summer job,” said Cruz. “The fact that it turned into more and allowed me to help pay for college is incredible. It was an amazing feeling when I learned I was going to get [a scholarship].”
Cruz is unsure if he will be able to return to Bonnie Briar as a GOLFWORKS intern for a third year, largely due to his internship aspirations in the business world. Still, there is no doubt his time there has left its mark.
“I consider everyone here family,” said Cruz. “We talk all the time, we hang out outside of work, and at work it never really feels like a job. I can say that GOLFWORKS has helped me a lot. It taught me responsibility and helped me get on a good path for college, so if I can’t come back next season for the summer…I will definitely miss it.”