By Clifford Cowley
Occupation: 1st Assistant Golf Professional
Location: Manele Golf Course, Lanai, Hawaii
Pro Status: PGA Apprentice Program
In his own words, T.J. Orban says he had a “pretty normal childhood.” His mom is an office manager in an orthodontics office and his dad is a manager for Diebold, an ATM company. His uncle introduced him to golf. “I was about ten when my cousin and I started playing with my uncle at a little executive course in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. I was immediately hooked. It was $10 to play as many holes as you could get in, all day – every day. I spent many a full day on that little muni.”
T.J. participated in all sports in high school, and intended to pursue sports medicine as a career. But after graduating from high school in 2006 and attending one year of college, he soon found that sports medicine wasn’t his thing. Not sure where to go from there, he kept thinking about the things he loved and golf kept coming to mind. So he enrolled in the Golf Course Management program at YTI Career Institute in York, PA, and worked at a few courses in the local area. In 2009, he graduated with academic honors and is currently enrolled in the PGA Apprentice Program. In 2010, he was offered the 2nd Assistant position at Royal Manchester Golf Links in Mt. Wolf, PA, and in 2012, he was asked to take on the 1st Assistant position at The Links at Gettysburg in Gettysburg, PA.
T.J. was comfortable in his position at The Links, but in 2012 his fiancée’s father passed away and they decided to move out west to be close to her family. “I left the job I had at The Links at Gettysburg, and I went, sight unseen, to the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area, with no work lined up. The golf season was over by the time we got there, so I worked a few short-term jobs to keep afloat until spring. I decided to take a stack of resumes to the Spokane Golf Show. Luckily, the Coeur d’Alene Resort was looking for a new Assistant Pro, and they hired me as their 1st Assistant. I was thankful for the opportunity to learn at such a great facility. It’s a close-knit staff. I learned a lot about customer service and how to run a pro shop from Andy MacKimmee and Bob Nuttelman.”
Cold Hard Facts
As much as he loved working at one of the premier courses in the state of Washington, T.J. yearned for a year-round, warm weather climate. “I’ve always been the type to challenge myself, and I’ve always dreamed of living in Hawaii. When I heard about a position at Manele Golf Course at the Four Seasons Resort, I submitted my resume, got a call back for an interview, and started as their 1st Assistant in October (2015). I miss my friends and co-workers at CDA, but not the winter weather,” he says with a grin.
The opportunity to become a member of the Four Seasons team, and to be able to work at a place as special as Manele Golf Course still feels surreal to T.J. “I’m excited to be in a position to meet new people, build relationships with the guests, and have the ability to make their golfing experience at Lana‘i the best they’ve ever had. I’m lucky to have been blessed with the path I have taken.”
T.J. cites all the people he has worked with as having an influence on how him in the world of golf. “I always try to be open to any kernel of wisdom, or how to do my job better,” says T.J. “If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can learn from anyone.” His biggest influence in life would be his dad. “He showed me how to act and how to be a good person. My parents divorced when I was really little, and my mom and I lived four hours away, so I didn’t get to see him that much. In the time I did have with him, though, I think he did more effective parenting in a quarter of the time than a lot of my friends’ parents did that were together,” he says proudly. “My dad loves to play golf. When I was in the 9th through the 10th grade, he bought me lessons for Christmas presents, and that’s when golf really took off for me. I went from struggling to shoot 100 to playing in the 70’s with consistency. He has always supported me both professionally and personally, and has always been my biggest advocate.”
“There’s a huge connection between me and my teaching philosophy,” says T.J. “I’m a pretty laid-back, easygoing type of guy, and I’m pretty good at rolling with things as they come. My teaching style is very similar. I’m not one to pick out ‘the perfect swing’ and try to mold a student into it. I love the whole ‘swing your swing’ Arnold Palmer thing. The golf swing is like a snowflake. No two swings are the same, nor should they try to be made the same. You have to take the hand you’re dealt and master it. Ask Jim Furyk his thoughts on that.”
“On the business side, I focus on taking care of the guests. They’re the reason you’re here, so treat them like it. I had a guy come into the shop in Coeur d’Alene and tell me he was from Akron, Ohio, and it was his lifelong dream to golf at that golf course. He’d saved up his bonus checks and set money aside for 10 years to be able to make it happen. 10 years. You can bet I’m going to do my best to make sure his experience lives up to 10 years of excitement.”
Carry on, T.J.
What’s In T.J.’s Bag?
“Nike all the way.”
Driver – Nike Vapor Pro
3-5Wood – Nike Vapor Speed
4-PW – Nike Vapor Pro Combo
52/56/60º – Nike Engage Square Sole
Putter – Nike Method Core Drone 2.0
Ball – Nike RZN Platinum