A business degree opened the door for Tom Pashley to turn his passion into his career


Tom Pashley

It was, it seemed, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Just out of high school, Tom Pashley set off for Pinehurst, N.C., a place he’d seen in a magazine, a place that supposedly delivered the quintessential golf experience. For a few days, he and his brother indulged in their passion, playing the game they had grown to love back home in Augusta.

“Such an amazing experience,” Pashley (BBA ’91) says. “Staying in the Carolina (hotel). Courses unlike anything we’d ever seen before. That first exposure to Pinehurst has always stuck with me.”

Two decades later that experience is part of his daily routine. Since 1996 Pashley has been at Pinehurst Resort, where he led sales and marketing efforts and was responsible for record-setting corporate sales during the 2005 U.S. Open. He is now executive vice president, but has been tapped to take over as president this fall, following a milestone event for the 119-year-old resort, the oldest and largest in the country.

In June, Pinehurst will host back-to-back men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments, June 12-15 for the men and June 19-22 for the women. It will be the first time a U.S. resort has hosted both tournaments in consecutive weeks.

“Some people work their whole lives in jobs that don’t inspire them,” Pashley says. “For me to go back to an early moment in my life when I was inspired and to get to work at a place as unique as Pinehurst... I love coming to work every day.”

Pashley’s route to Pinehurst wound through Athens. At UGA Pashley majored in accounting, learning many of the business principles that he uses successfully at Pinehurst. He also met his future wife, Susan Reifert (AB ’91), in English 102.

Outside of the classroom, he furthered his passion for golf. He frequented the university course, where he played nearly every day during the summer following his junior year. As a sophomore, he won the intramural golf championship, the first golf tournament he’d ever won.

“I remember the prize for winning was this T-shirt that said, ‘Intramural Champion,’” he says. “Was pretty proud of that shirt.”

Following graduation he spent three years at Deloitte & Touche in Atlanta, but golf beckoned. He pursued an MBA at Duke and was the graduate assistant for the men’s golf team, which ultimately led him to Pinehurst. With the MBA in hand he became Pinehurst’s first manager-in-development, and spent a year rotating through each department, learning the intricacies of each and their impact on the whole.

Pashley still has pictures from that first trip to Pinehurst. It’s a catalog of images that he now adds to every day.

“I’ve been lucky enough to combine one of my passions with my career,” Pashley says. “With the upcoming U.S. Opens and my new leadership responsibilities, I couldn’t be more excited about the next chapter of my career at Pinehurst.”

—Todd Graff is vice president, public relations at Conover Tuttle Pace in Boston.