Max McConnell

Credentials: PGA of Illinois

Position title: Manager of Foundation Programming

Photo of Max McConnell

Major: Communication Arts (Communication Science & Rhetorical Studies)

Certificates: Digital Studies, Sports Communication, and Entrepreneurship

Graduation Date: May 2021

How did you end up at the PGA of Illinois?

When I arrived at UW-Madison, I was not sure what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do for a career. The summer after my freshman year, I got a job as a golf instructor working for the First Tee of South-Central Wisconsin. I absolutely loved working in the sports industry, and I wanted to tailor my school experience to set me up for a career in sports. I volunteered for UW Athletics, got involved with the Sports Business Club, helped found AreaRED at UW-Madison, and completed internships with the Madison Capitols, the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, and the Milwaukee Brewers.

After graduating from UW-Madison in the Spring of 2021, I began my career with the University of Texas – El Paso athletic department working in the ticket sales and services department. I left UTEP after accepting an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up with the PGA of Illinois in February of 2022, and I have been here ever since! It certainly has been a unique journey, but entering the workforce during the COVID pandemic taught me to work hard and stay patient while facing adversity.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

While it is cliché, my favorite part about my job is that no two days are the same. As the Manager of Foundation Programming, I oversee two main areas of the Illinois PGA: our non-profit foundation and player development.

The foundation side is more administrative: I plan our PGA HOPE initiative that teaches golf to veterans, organize charitable events like Birdies for Charity, and administer the Illinois GolfWorks program that provides scholarships and internships to students in the Chicago area. The foundation side of my position is unique and rewarding because I have the ability to think creatively to find new ways to fundraise, give back to members of the golf industry, and make a difference in the community.

The player development side is more active: I travel to local golf courses to facilitate golf tournaments, direct all the local, subregional, and regional qualifying events of the PGA’s Drive, Chip and Putt competition, and run PGA Junior League postseason championship events. The player development side of my position allows me to get out of the office and onto the golf course where I can interact with our players and represent the PGA.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

The Digital Studies Certificate has truly taught me how to effectively communicate with those around me to best represent myself and my organization. As a marketing intern with the Madison Capitols, I learned how to connect with our fanbase and promote our organization through social media. In my current position with the PGA, the people I work with in the golf industry are typically an older generation and slower to adapt. The skills I learned from the Digital Studies certificate have taught me how to use clear communication and find the right medium to promote content to effectively present new ideas, utilize new technology, and create new ways to fundraise.

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class?

I really enjoyed Life Sciences Communication 350: Visualizing Science and Technology. I thought this class offered a unique outlook on the ways we depict scientific visuals. I always enjoyed learning about our own biases, and it was interesting to see how biases are included in graphics and data visualizations. Even using different colors or shapes can solicit a different response from an audience. I thought that class was very relevant and applicable to everyday life, and it taught me to be more critical and analytical of visuals displayed in the media.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Honestly, it would be to enjoy every second of your time at UW-Madison. You are attending a top university in the country, living in a beautiful city, and exploring your true passions. You are in a great position, so truly enjoy it!

On a more serious note, I would recommend taking advantage of having the term “student” attached to you. There are so many people who are willing to provide their time, assistance, advice, resources, and so much more to set students up for success. There are also plenty of opportunities and programs that are only offered to students – you just have to take the time to find them.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

I was very proud to be selected to direct the Midwest Regional for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition. I was able to secure Medinah Country Club, one of the most iconic golf courses in America, to host our event. The golfers at the event had won two previous events, and the winners of this competition would qualify to participate in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club the week of The Masters Tournament. It was incredible to oversee a competition dedicated to growing the game of golf for youth golfers, and it was incredibly rewarding to host such a successful event for the participants and their families!