As a 14-year-old, Joe Steadman worked at a nine-hole golf course known as The Barracks on the grounds of the now-closed Plattsburgh Air Force base.
“That’s where I got the bug,” said Steadman, 35, the director of instruction at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst. “Golf up there wasn’t much. There’s not much of a season and in the summers, hockey wasn’t going on.”
He first played golf with his father and grandfather at The Barracks, and it remains his favorite haunt when he returns to where he grew up near Lake Champlain in upstate New York. But today, after 13 years of military service, including multiple special operations deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and a stint as an instructor at Fort Bragg, and earning his professional golf management (PGM) and MBA degrees from Campbell University, Steadman logs many hours of instruction time at CCNC with its large golf-mad membership. Married with two children, he scratches his head at how he got there.
“I owe all that to Jeff Dotson,” Steadman says of CCNC’s director of golf. “Jeff, for whatever reason, gave me a chance. I’m extremely appreciative of that.”
“He is a smart guy with really good experience almost way beyond his years,” Dotson said. “And a member of CCNC told me that he was doing a great job of giving instruction at Campbell. I watched him give a lesson to a member at CCNC and I was impressed.”
“We are finding that the right things to teach depend on the person. Not just what’s always been taught before.” – Joe Steadman
What Dotson saw in Steadman was a mature, likeable and intelligent veteran, who translated all of his life’s skills into a golf teaching style that includes many of the methods of top 100 teacher Terry Rowles and Mike Adams while based in technology and science. Steadman spent an internship at Metedeconk National in 2018 under Rowles and met Adams while in New Jersey and those lessons stuck.
“We are finding that the right things to teach depend on the person,” said Steadman, whose dream golf outing includes Albert Einstein, Phil Mickelson, Winston Churchill, Elon Musk and his CCNC golf staff friend Tanner Steiner. “Not just what’s always been taught before.”
Probably smiling through his mustache, Einstein might approve of Steadman’s approach to teaching golf. A heavy dose of science and technology is blended with a fine-tuned application of all of his person-to-person and team dynamics experience, almost purely collected from his time in the military.
“We can’t try to teach someone something their body can’t perform,” Steadman says.
He finds a clear parallel between teaching golf and teaching/leading in the military.
“It’s a challenging game to teach because it is so difficult to play,” Steadman said. “To have people rely on you to make them better is challenging. It’s the same in the military. What we did every day was pushing ourselves and challenging ourselves.”
He has observed that two simple yet powerful forces have crossover importance either in the chaos of a military mission or on the divot-ridden practice areas of golf facilities – namely communication and general awareness.
“The thing that I learned in the military that helped me most in golf was learning how to teach,” Steadman said. “I learned how in-depth the process was. I learned how we learn as humans, how the brain works, how different people learn differently. Whether it’s how to clear a room or shoot a pistol, the concepts of learning were the same. I just had to transfer them to golf.”
He also accurately saw that solutions to military situations are on the other side of the spectrum from golf. In the military, more force and more aggression and power are effective, usually not so in golf.
“In lessons, I give them that analogy that it’s the exact opposite,” Steadman said. “The harder you reach for it, the further away it goes.”
While Steadman has employed his keen powers of observation to apply his military lessons as a golf instructor, he also clearly understands that golf provided him with an avenue that smoothed his transition to civilian life.
He completed his military service at Fort Bragg in 2018, but Steadman enrolled at Campbell University for their PGM program in 2016. He did play golf while in the service when he was in between deployments in Germany. But after his military career golf found him.
“Golf was there,” Steadman said. “I wasn’t looking for it. But it became my distraction very naturally. I turned to golf, but I didn’t realize I was looking for something. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I needed something to help me deal with what was happening with me on a personal level. That didn’t start until I stopped deploying and I came to Fort Bragg as an instructor.”
Steadman embraced golf as he had hockey back in his younger days in Plattsburgh. An honors graduate for both degrees from Campbell, he went full out to make a career in golf, which explains his appreciation of what he learned from Rowles and Adams.
He used his military-built determination to make himself a good player. He cites his Playing Ability Test as part of his PGA accreditation as one of his favorite golf memories, because he had no expectations on his first try and shot 72 in the first of two 18-hole rounds and then “coasted in.”
Understandably, Steadman does not like to speak of his military experience but there is one thing he will gladly talk about with anyone and everyone: military personnel need help with their transition to life after service.
“One of the main reasons I’m becoming more open about talking about this stuff is because there are a lot of guys who experienced similar things who just aren’t comfortable with it,” Steadman said. “This is the part I don’t have a problem speaking about because I might help other people like me.”
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