It takes two to tango, so the saying goes. With that said, the golf industry is the dance floor for PGA Professionals Brian and Jessie Stewart. This Durham, N.C., couple is bound together by more than just wedding vows. Sure, they live in the same house, share the same interests and raise the same child – their 3-year-old son, Maddox. But they also work in the same business; one that rewards extraordinary effort.
As the first husband-and-wife team to be given prestigious awards from the Carolinas PGA Section in the same year, their story is a remarkable one. Jessie, the PGA head professional at Duke University Golf Club in Durham, N.C., was named the 2012 PGA Merchandiser of the Year for public facilities in the Section. Brian, meanwhile, was named TaylorMade-adidas PGA Assistant Professional of the Year for his work at Old Chatham Golf Club, also in Durham, where he is the first assistant.
The Stewarts both played golf at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., though they never met there. Brian graduated in 1999 during the term Jessie was enrolling. With them both being collegiate athletes, their union is naturally competitive. So the story of how they received the announcement of their awards is as noteworthy as the achievements themselves.
“We were both pretty shocked and humbled,” says Jessie. “What was funny, though, was that the call came in on his cell phone and they asked for me. It was like, ‘Hey, Brian, how are you? Is your wife around?’ So I got the news first. It was funny and well played. He gave me a hard time about it, though.”
“My wife just wanted to steal my thunder,” jokes Brian. “Seriously, it was great. It said I’m doing something right. It’s a tough business. Everything we do, we do together. We bounce ideas off each other and we work out our scenarios together. I consider it a house award.”
The Stewarts are certainly on a roll. But they are in no way content to sit on their recent laurels.
“I can’t speak for him, but it obviously motivates you to get better at what you do; it motivates me to make the (Duke) shop better, it motivates me to try and help others and to give advice,” says Jessie. “But as much as it means to me and my career, it is more of a testament to our staff. It’s a tremendous award for our club. I can’t take even half of the credit.”
Being located on a college campus, the Duke University Golf Club requires the golf shop to be stocked with a variety of goods. It must cater to all price points, and must appeal to the wide range of consumers who walk through the door on any given day.
Brian’s place of business, which he joined full- time in 2004, is slightly different. As a private, golf- only venue with a Rees Jones-designed layout, Old Chatham requires that his duties encompass all facets of golf operations.
What separates the Charlotte-area native from the pack is his commitment to developing golf industry leaders of tomorrow. In addition to running five golf tournaments and teaching an average of 100 lessons a year, Brian serves as the President of the Carolinas PGA Assistants’ Association. Through it, he was inspired to develop a burgeoning mentor support group for area assistants.
“Golf is a great game,” says Brian. “We want to give back to it by helping aspiring professionals in their careers.”
Though the Stewarts were ships passing in the night during their collegiate careers, they ended up working together at Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, N.C., for the 2002 and 2003 summer seasons, and started dating.
Both were working winters in Florida, with each hoping to get back to the Carolinas and closer to family. The respective opportunities at Duke and Old Chatham were most appealing and allowed them to settle down full-time in Durham. As for their lingering competitiveness, the Stewarts are just glad to be on the same side – as winners.
Originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of PGA Magazine. Reprinted with permission of PGA Magazine.