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Connecting students with field learning experiences

Two sport management students received first-hand sports business knowledge through the 2022 Presidents Cup, a nationally televised PGA event. Andrew Walker, graduate student, and Justin Violette, undergraduate, traveled to Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C. for the September 22-25 competition. The pair worked for Show Pros Entertainment, Inc., a crowd management and event-oriented staffing company.

Patrick Hairston, sport management teaching assistant professor, says he attempts to associate students with business practitioners and events so they can gain field learning skills and network within the sports industry. “Andrew and Justin both love the game of golf. As I connect with students throughout the semester, I discover their passions. I learned that Andrew and Justin played golf by getting to know them and their interests,” Hairston said.

Walker, from Summersville, W.Va., says he chose the WVU sport management program because of the history of successful Mountaineer graduates who came before him. “Another reason is because I am from West Virginia and have always loved WVU. When I had the opportunity to come here, I took that chance,” he said. “After I graduate, I plan to work inside of college athletics. During this semester I have thought about focusing within fundraising or sports information.”

Meanwhile, Violette, in his senior year, chose the WVU because of his passion for sports and his previous knowledge of the different aspects of the industry. Violette, from Pawleys Island, S.C, says he selected his degree pathway due to the rapid growth in the market and demand for sports as an ever-expanding business.

“Following graduation, I plan on go into the world of sports and work in the front office of a professional team. This may vary solely based on the situation, but the hope is to work in the NFL, determining player value and trading assets/players,” Violette said.

At the golf tournament, Walker was placed at the President’s Suite on the 14th green. He confirmed that guests had tickets for the suites and were in the right spot. “I also aided fans without tickets to access the suites,” he said. “This experience will help me build on communication skills while expanding my career network.”

Violette served as a supervisor of hospitalities. “I oversaw 20 employees making sure that they were working hand in hand with the different venues, allowing the patron to have the best experience possible,” he said. “I worked with the ambassadors for exclusive suites, CITI and TITOS. During my six days there I saw a few notable figures such as Roy Williams, Baker Mayfield and others. My job was to make sure that they were content and pleased with their experience as well as the other 8,000 spectators under my supervision.”

Violette says that the hands-on learning experience will help him understand what it takes to put together a large event. “I have an awareness of the moving parts involved that no one sees along with the stress and responsibility that comes with overseeing such big stature hospitality suites,” he said.

Walker says that establishing acquaintances who work in the sports industry or know people in the business has broadened his career opportunities. “Some people I met at the tournament have offered me help if I needed it. I also met a few famous celebrities who I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet if I had not worked this event,” he said.

Realizing the demands of successfully organizing large-scale events stood out for Violette. “There were months of planning and working on this venue to get it to run smoothly for the 100,000+ fans who attended,” he said. “In the moment, there is so much going on but it’s a way to learn management skills and to take your first steps in the hectic sports world.”

The United States Team defeated the International Team in the ninth consecutive Presidents Cup victory for the United States.

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