This year, 2020 sounded so cool to me in the 2000s and beyond. We saw clever names for strategic plans and similar called “Vision 20/20” and more. Maybe we (or at least I) built it up too much?

Either way, I believe we can all agree that 2020 has been epic. We have seen massive gains in demand for golf that none of us could have predicted. We have also seen changes in how we live, how we work and how we operate at our facilities. We also have lost friends, colleagues and seen trusted friends and peers retire. (Frankly, I wasn’t ready to write about this last month. Too close to the moment for me, and I needed time to process. Probably still do.)

I know that we were all rocked by the tragic loss of our friend, peer and Section leader Sean Fredrickson, PGA early in July 2020. At the same time, many of us were coming to grips with the pending retirement (and what feels like loss) of our friend, peer and Section CEO, Jeff Ellison, PGA. I have had many conversations over the phone, via text and in person about both of these individuals in the past month or more. One PGA professional, who interacted with both very closely in recent years said this to me, “This situation is making me reconsider my impact. I tend to get so focused on my own career…how can I make a difference like him?”

I don’t want to diminish the impact that both of these PGA professionals had on anyone else in this Section, but I would like to highlight the similarities I noticed in both of these men in how they “operated” and interacted with so many of the PGA professionals in the PNWPGA. By doing so, I’m thinking we can do a bit of celebrating of their work and impact and consider how we can apply their “leadership style” and more to our own PGA work.

In 2017, the Section published an article called The Value of High-Trust Networks for me. In that article, I shared an article written by author Geoffrey Moore. Primarily, I focused on how expensive low-trust networks and low-trust operators can be to any golf operation. However, if you read that article or re-read it (and you know Jeff Ellison, PGA well and/or you knew Sean Fredrickson, PGA well), I believe you will immediately recognize them as high-trust operators or “HTOs.” They both have the following on their “career resumes.” They have:

  • Built strong teams at their facility/the Section;
  • Built high-trust networks with healthy culture at the Chapter and Section Board levels
  • Been proactive leaders who maximized the capacity and performance of these teams, networks and boards through consistency, professionalism, trustworthiness and authenticity. Both have learned to admit their weaknesses, while relying on the strengths they bring to these teams and networks.

In my view, below are some reasons why I (and others) hold them and their legacies with high regard. Both Sean and Jeff learned how, then lived out, and lead out in these ways:

  • They learned to be a mentor to others (and they looked for opportunities to mentor). I know of several professionals who saw Sean as a big brother, a father-figure and more. This is one of the aspects I admire most about Sean. Jeff has been a great resource for me since 2012, and an even better working partner, supporting me as I seek to support the Section’s professionals. He often came up with ways where the Section could help me be more effective in my role, or give me the platform I needed to raise visibility.
  • They both believed in “lifelong learning” and naturally modeled it in virtually every area of their professional lives (you will notice I keep repeating their learning – this is very important – I’m sure they both felt failure in each of these areas at times, but they kept working at it. That is the takeaway here.)
  • They learned (and tried) to be better, more trusting delegators
    • Yes, each got to their position by producing and getting it done.
    • As leaders, I believe those they lead would agree that both grew and believed that “empowerment comes with responsibility” line. Both had high expectations of their teams, but higher for themselves.
    • They modeled being worthy of trust and worked hard to give trust through empowerment with the support of training and mentoring. This is not easy work either. Allowing others in one’s charge means allowing them to get closer to failing than we would on our own; letting go of this is where the work is, but when it works, the result is far better.
  • They sought to see others get recognition and worked hard to give credit for good work done
  • They both “stood for what they believed in” and sought to teach and share the context for those beliefs – words like professionalism, consistency, leadership and respect are now synonymous with both of these men. (I hope that you would like the same words to be associated with you and your PGA impact and legacy. I know I do.)
  • They both “saw the big picture.” Even though Jeff and Sean were focused, if not driven, golf professionals and leaders, I wouldn’t say they were myopic. In multiple situations, I know about how they adjusted their perspective on the good information or context shared by someone else who “knew more” about the situation. That takes maturity.
    • I also know about how both adjusted their approach to a situation or an individual so they could help “nudge” that individual to adjust their actions, and that nudge ended up creating a “winning outcome” for that professional or group of pros
    • I witnessed both do the same in Section Board meetings multiple times
  • They both have “horsepower.” Sure, they’re both very talented, quick to learn things and pick up skills, but they’ve got the HP. The intangible energy that comes from belief in the noble cause, belief in the group or individual they were working with at that time. This same energy is what gave them the grit to nudge (and maybe push) those under their influence to grow in areas they themselves wouldn’t have gotten to. They have both shown a willingness to “have the difficult conversation” with individuals at all levels, not because they like the conflict, but because they valued the individual enough. In the end, the conflict and discomfort was worth it to them, because the person (and the outcome) was worth it.
  • Finally, they both have a legacy. That legacy is spelled out differently for both of them, and differently in each professional in our Section as each of us has interacted with Jeff and Sean in different ways and at different levels.

No matter who each of us is, or what level we interacted with them, their legacy is irrefutable. I could lay out even more reasons than I did above. In closing, I hope you see their legacy is “one worth having.” I also hope you’ll think about how you can learn from their legacy, their approach and their impact and find ways to start applying it to your professional (and personal) life starting today. I know that both Sean and Jeff did this very thing every single day. This made them the “high-trust operators” they are and it’s what made them so valuable to so many professionals, sponsors and “friends” of the PNWPGA Section.

Indeed, both will be missed. But, I’m confident there will be innumerable situations that will arise in the coming years where many of us will be reminded of them and what they did for the Section and for individual golf professionals in their careers. In each of those instances I come across, I will certainly celebrate their impact and be grateful for their impact on me and my professional career. I hope you’ll be doing the very same.

If there’s anything I can as a Career Coach or Consultant for you or those you lead; or in adding value to your PGA career, through coaching on applying player development and/or professional development principles, please don’t hesitate to reach out at your earliest convenience.


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
Serving PGA professionals, employers in the Pacific NW & Rocky Mountain PGA Sections

Email: Cell: 206/335-5260

Lea Hill, WA | My LinkedIn | My Professional Blog

Click HERE to Begin Our New Career Planning Program

Identify Your Unique Value Proposition – FILL OUT FORM