CANTON — Golf has been such a big part of Nick Miller’s life that he has lived much of it with the fifth green of the Potsdam Country Club just past his backyard.
Now Miller, a former Potsdam High School standout and NCAA Division I golfer at Siena, is working his way toward a career as a PGA professional, hoping to find a full-time job running a course.
Miller, who is 24, has been working at the St. Lawrence University Golf Course the past two years, assisting the pro there, Frank Mittiga.
“I always enjoyed being around the golf course as I grew up,” Miller said. “My goal, originally, was to try to play as long as possible. This lets me do that while going down a career path I would enjoy in the future. For me, it doesn’t eliminate either route. It keeps both options open.”
Miller was, arguably, the most successful individual golfer in Section 10 history. He made the state tournament five straight years and he is one of only two people to win three straight Section 10 individual championships, claiming the title from 2006-08.
To become a PGA professional is a long process, which, according to Miller, involves three levels of testing. A player has to be able to shoot a certain score on a course, pass a certification test and also pass a rules test.
“The certification is based on your knowledge of rules and the history of the PGA and its organization,” Miller said. “Once you register they give you a whole packet, mainly studying and workbook stuff, which tests your knowledge of business and teaching philosophy, stuff like that. There is also a restaurant management section, in case you get involved with a course that has one. They make sure whatever job you take, you meet all the requirements of it.”
Miller said he can take most of the courses from home at his own pace, but will have to go to Orlando for the actual tests.
“It’s a two or three-year process,” Miller said.
Working the last two years at SLU has given Miller a chance to see what will be involved when he someday takes on a course of his own.
“Basically we promote the game,” Miller said. “We run tournaments and I’ve helped a few people with their swings and little tips here and there.”
Being a PGA professional is also about playing the game competitively. Miller said there are about 20 events a year he can participate in and a handful of PGA pros each year qualify for the final major of the season, the PGA Championship.
“You are still playing at a pretty-high level,” Miller said.
Miller was born in Quesnel, British Columbia. His family moved to the north country when he was eight, first living in Colton and then moving to the house in Potsdam, right next to the fifth green, when he was in the seventh grade.
Although he played the SLU course a handful of times when he was in high school, usually in Section 10 contests against Canton, he was more familiar with the Potsdam course.
“I got a good opportunity from (Mittiga) to come over to SLU and there’s a lot of good people over there,” Miller said. “It came about pretty quickly. It was a career path I was thinking about pursuing. I’ve definitely learned a lot about the (SLU) course since I started working here. I really never came to it much (before). It’s pretty tricky.
“I probably play three or four times a week. I’d say I’m a little bit better (than college). I’m not quite as consistent. ”