Bill Hassell has held internships and seasonal positions at some of the most famous golf courses in the country, including Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines.
The 33-year-old learned plenty of useful information during his formative years in the golf business, but perhaps the most important pearl of wisdom came from a superior at Frederica Golf Club in St. Simons. Hassell carried the tidbit with him to Cartersville Country Club, and it's helped shape a huge part of the legacy he's built in his seven years spent in Bartow County.
“When you go to a club, you can’t necessarily make a lot of changes,” Hassell said of the advice he received. “You’ve got to get a feel for what that country club is all about and what there’s a need for.
"After listening and kind of getting to know the members of the club, what I saw was a void in junior golf. There’s obviously a lot of elite players in Cartersville, but there was definitely a need for junior golf and a demand for it.”
In stepped Hassell, and it seems safe to say that he's filled the void.
The Vicksburg, Mississippi, native started out small, conducting youth camps to get kids interested in the game of golf. Hassell, who recently earned the title of director of instruction at the club, still runs those camps with one having taken place this past week.
Before joining the club, Hassell didn't have a ton of experience working with young players, although he had taught some youth camps in golf and tennis during his time in Vicksburg. However, he said the transition is fairly seamless, because his message doesn't change based on the age of a player.
“You always try to keep it as simple as you can,” Hassell said. “Some days it’s a little easier than others to do that, but you want to give them no more than one or two things to work on. They know when they’re doing it correctly, and they know when they’re doing it incorrectly. The ball is really in their court from there.
“The fundamentals of the game are what I’m teaching them, and it really doesn’t vary a lot from adults to juniors.”
Hassell still works with adults on a regular basis. Along with his role at the club itself, he works as the head golf professional and lead instructor of Scott Hamilton Golf Academy in Cartersville, which is also associated with the club.
Hamilton is world renowned for his golf guidance, working closely with several members of the PGA Tour. Hassell said being able to learn under Hamilton has been "unbelievable." It's one of the reasons Hassell thinks he's found a long-term home in Bartow County.
“There’s a lot of cool places, but it’s way more about how you can help people where you’re at,” Hassell said of moving around in the golf business. “I’ve kind of realized over this time period that teaching is what I want to do, and I get the most satisfaction out of it.
"More so, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to have the knowledge from Scott Hamilton to be able to do this. I feel like I have something to offer these junior golfers and college kids who want to keep going with it.”
In just a few years, Hassell has successfully groomed some of those curious kids into junior golfers who rival the best the state has to offer. The cream of the crop often visit Hassell for private instruction multiple times a week.
While the Mississippi State graduate's hope is for the golfers he teaches to get whatever it is they want out of the game — be it a future membership at the club, a college scholarship or a professional career — Hassell said it is rewarding to see his pupils succeeding on the course.
Thursday, he held one of his lessons with Christina Surcey. The 13-year-old will be an eighth-grader at Cass Middle in the fall, but she has been one of Hassell's brightest stars for years. As an 11-year-old, Surcey won the 13-and-under division of the Georgia Junior Golf state championship.
Between the strength in numbers and the individual talent of some students, Hassell believes the club's junior academy is in a good place. However, he always wants to continue adapting and improving.
“Obviously very excited about where it’s at,” Hassell said. “Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to structure things for each age group. For our younger kids, it’s way more about the fun factor and getting them excited in the game. We’re doing junior camps this week, and it’s all about having fun on the golf course. …
"At different ages, kids are ready for individual instruction. If they want individual instruction, it’s something where they need to be practicing at least three to four times a week.”
A few of Hassell's greatest individual success stories comprise the majority of the Cartersville High boys golf team. The Canes wrapped up the high school season last month with a fourth-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament. That comes on the heels of an eighth-place showing in 2018.
“The kids on the Cartersville golf team sacrifice a lot to excel at golf, and that’s just what you have to do,” Hassell said. “As far as moving forward with the program, I think the culture here has been established that it’s cool to play golf like it is with other sports. That kind of takes care of itself. When they’re out here hitting golf balls, they’re not the only one. I think they enjoy the social aspect of it but also know how to turn that off and go to work.”
Cartersville High golf coach Reggie Perkins has seen firsthand how Hassell's work with his players has helped lead a revival of the Canes program.
“Bill’s had a tremendous impact on them,” Perkins said. “He works with every one of them. The ones who are working to get better, he’s working with them. Bill revamped the junior program, and once he got it started, those kids are now at the high school. They’ve been working with him — some weekly, some of them daily, some every other week.
“He’s really good at what he does. He’s really good at working with the kids, getting their swing where it needs to be and making sure they’re ready to play.”
With Hassell counseling the Canes on their personal swings, Perkins is free to focus on other coaching aspects.
“If kids want to be good at something specific like golf, they’re going to have a swing coach,” Perkins said. “They’re going to have someone come in and help them with that aspect of the game. Most of the golfers right now, they’re in it. They want to be good.
“It’s huge to have [Hassell] to be able to do that. … It’s nice to be able to manage the mental aspect of it and the course management aspect of the game, and then have him there to help them with all the details of their swing.”
It's clear the revitalization of the junior program is already reaping benefits at the local high schools. As those young players continue to grow and mature, Bartow County will only increase its reputation in the golf community.
“It’s good, because those kids, they were missing it,” Perkins said. “It’s good for the kids who may not want to play football, baseball or basketball. They want to do something else and kind of find themselves a niche.
"Some of them are really good at it. They’re able to work on it at a young age with such a good teacher and be able to excel at a level they probably wouldn’t be able to without someone like Bill there to help them out.”
Perkins isn't the only one to have noticed Hassell's impeccable teaching ability. Despite having only spent the past three months as the club's general manager and director of golf, Phillip Wright has witnessed Hassell continue to improve upon his already successful style.
“To be a good teacher, you have to be a good listener to hear what the students are saying; you also have to understand the dynamics of a golf swing; and you have to understand what physical limitations there may or may not be,” Wright said. “Bill has the ability to do all of that. He’s a very even keel, easygoing, very likable guy who throughly enjoys teaching. … Bill has learned quite a bit from Scott and has adapted that knowledge into his own personal teaching style.”
Hassell credits those he's worked with in the past and in the present for molding him and allowing him to become a better instructor. But he also points to the factors in play that make Cartersville Country Club an ideal place for him to work, noting the top-notch facilities and a group of laidback members who just love to play the game.
So while Hassell will deservedly get credit as locals continue to rise up the junior ranks, he knows it takes more than just him to produce a collegiate or professional golfer. That's just another enlightening nugget shared with him during his career.
“I’ve heard a coach say before, 'It takes a village to create a [PGA] Tour player or incredibly high-level player,’” Hassell said. “I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. I’m just appreciative of all the parents. It takes a lot to travel to all of these events and take your child wherever they need to go to play golf. …
“There’s a lot to it. We’ve got a good community and a great club that welcomes the junior golfers. We’ve got parents who are willing to invest in their kids for the long haul in the game of golf. And I think we’ve got some pretty good instruction to follow that. It’s a pretty good combination that we have out here.”