MBA graduate Sophie Faulkner preparing to work behind the scenes in the golf business

by | Dec 10, 2023

Faulkner, a former UMSL women's golfer, will begin working as an assistant club professional at Bellerive Country Club in February.
MBA graduate Sophie Faulkner preparing to work behind the scenes in the golf business

by | Dec 10, 2023

Faulkner, a former UMSL women's golfer, will begin working as an assistant club professional at Bellerive Country Club in February.
Sophie Faulkner

Sophie Faulkner is set to begin working as an assistant club professional at Bellerive Country Club after earning her MBA. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Sophie Faulkner has had a pretty manageable workload these past few weeks as she wraps up the fall semester, with only one paper to finish and a final exam to prepare for before she completes her MBA at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

That has allowed her a little extra time to start prepping for her immediate future.

Faulkner will be moving out of her apartment in University Meadows by the end of the month and into a new address in Chesterfield, Missouri. That’ll leave her with only about a 10-minute commute to the new job she’ll start in February, learning all the ins and outs of the golf business as an assistant club professional at Bellerive Country Club.

“The way Bellerive is set up, they have someone in each of the main areas of the golf operation – teaching and coaching, executive management and tournament operations,” said Faulkner, who spent two and half years as a member of the UMSL women’s golf team before beginning her MBA. “My job is going to be to assist all of the different areas, which is definitely what interests me. I want to learn it all. I want to know as much as I can about everything because I don’t think that you can work your way up without knowing everything that’s going on. So, I’m going to be doing some tournament operations, helping with the junior clinics, helping teach and coach if people want lessons, helping with the ladies’ events that go on, and then also working in the pro shop doing sales, helping with the merchandising side as well.”

Faulkner has been in love with the game since she was 14 growing up in London. That’s when her grandfather, himself an avid golfer, took her to a local driving range for a kids’ clinic one summer to keep her occupied.

Until then, Faulkner has mostly played team sports – field hockey, netball and rounders, all popular in the United Kingdom.

“From field hockey, I had the whole hand-eye coordination,” Faulkner said. “The coach running the clinic was like, ‘She has the whole basics down of hit ball hard. She should keep giving it a go.’”

Faulkner did. It was around that time that her father won tickets to The Masters at an auction, and the two of them flew to Georgia for the tournament the next April. The experience only furthered her interest.

She began playing regularly, often accompanying her grandfather to the course, and before long she was entering junior tournaments and finding some success.

“I did progress really quickly through it,” she said. “I started playing for the regional England team back home, and when you start getting to that kind of level, back in England especially, they all start asking, ‘Oh, are you going to go to America for a scholarship?’ That is a very common path for people to take. It obviously perked my ears because I’m thinking I can get an education, which will make my parents happy, and I can also keep playing golf.”

There were a number of American college coaches interested in recruiting her, including UMSL’s Troy Halterman. But Faulkner really didn’t explore many opportunities beyond her offer from Rollins College in Florida. Her family had vacationed once at Walt Disney World, so she knew she liked the weather there and would have the opportunity to play on great golf courses year-round.

Faulkner spent two seasons at Rollins, playing in a total of 14 events and placing in the top 30 at the Sunshine State Conference Championship her sophomore year. She was also a Women’s Golf Coaches’ Association All-America Scholar. But she didn’t always see eye-to-eye with her coach and made the decision to transfer in the fall of 2019.

That’s when she heard from Halterman again, only this time, she was eager to listen.

“I said to him, ‘OK, I’m in,’” Faulkner remembered. “Straight on the phone. ‘If you want me, I’m in.’ I signed everything, and then it was only about two weeks before I was supposed to be coming up here that we actually looked up what Missouri and St. Louis were like.”

Faulkner hasn’t regretted the decision, even though it didn’t always go smoothly. She joined the program in January 2020, only a couple of months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was limited to competing in just two tournaments her first spring before the world shut down and the rest of the schedule was canceled.

She went back to London to finish that semester and the following fall semester, taking courses online and undergoing wrist surgery to repair an old fracture.

But Faulkner had no trouble falling back in with her UMSL teammates when she returned.

“Already doing it once when I was down in Florida, when I’d moved countries and had to do the whole make new friends and learn the lingo – I already kind of had the muscle memory of how to get to know everyone,” she said. “That’s also the great thing about the sports teams on campus is that it is a really tight group. I’d already met two of the people that were still going to be on the team back in January 2020, and I kept in touch with them the whole time, and then moved in with them in January 2021.”

Faulkner said she felt very much a part of a family with the Tritons, even though she couldn’t compete that spring.

She managed to make it into UMSL’s top five during one tournament her senior season, but she still relished the camaraderie she had with her teammates and continued to have success academically while completing her bachelor’s degree in international business.

“I thoroughly enjoyed undergraduate,” said Faulkner, who earned her bachelor’s degree, graduating summa cum laude, in May 2022. “I loved it enough that I wanted to come back and do my MBA.”

Faulkner speaks fondly of College of Business Administration faculty members such as Perry Drake and Ekin Pellegrini from her time in the classroom at UMSL.

She’s also worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Enrichment and Achievement, lending academic support to undergraduate students, as she’s pursued her master’s with an emphasis in finance and marketing.

Last summer, Faulkner also landed an internship with the Gateway PGA Section, working as a tournament operations assistant. She loved the experience, helping put on tournaments for local club pros every Monday over the summer and junior tournaments throughout the week.

It inspired her to start the process of getting her certification with the PGA of America and helped her make connections to land her job at Bellerive.

Faulkner hopes it’s just an entry point for a long career with the PGA. She’d ultimately like to work with the PGA Tour. She got a taste of that work while volunteering at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrew’s in 2022.

“I loved just being around so many people that love golf, that have a passion for it, and being behind the scenes,” she said. “Getting to see how it actually runs, how it actually works fits with my business degrees and seeing how all the different parts go together to create this experience that people rave about.”

She’s starting at Bellerive at an exciting time with the club getting set to host the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in 2026 and the Presidents Cup in 2030. She hopes to have opportunities to network with PGA Tour officials as they begin preparations for those events.

But first, Faulkner is looking forward to taking part in commencement as she earns her MBA. She’s been chosen to serve as a student marshal during the commencement ceremony on Saturday morning.

“It’s a huge honor,” Faulkner said. “My parents weren’t coming for graduation, and now they are. They weren’t because they saw my undergraduate graduation. They were like, ‘If it’s going to be the same thing, then we’ve seen it.’ When I said I’d actually been asked to be the student marshal, it was kind of a big deal now. They were like, ‘OK, now we’ll come.’ It’s really exciting.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik