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What It’s Like to Be an Intern After 50

Three older workers tell why and how they decided to start over

spinner image karl yergey posing on a green with golf clubs
Karl Yergey, a USGA Boatwright intern, stands for a portrait at the Hoover Country Club in Hoover, Alabama on Sept. 29, 2023.
Rory Doyle


In May, after two decades teaching at a boarding school in Hagerstown, Maryland, Karl Yergey packed his bags, put his valuables in a storage unit and headed south to Alabama.

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His goal? To build a second career in golf administration. But first, he had to become an intern.

While internships mostly attract younger adults who are just starting their careers, these positions also can be suitable for older workers who are looking to change careers. There even is a special category called “returnships” that specifically focuses on helping older adults train for jobs after they have taken time off for retirement, caregiving or other responsibilities.

Many employers and organizations offer internships — paid and unpaid — and most of these programs don’t have caps on age. For example, this year the United States Golf Association’s internship program included three interns who are older than 50. Their experiences show that internships can be a way to learn new skills and share their years of experience in new ways.

For Yergey, who is 57, the internship is a pathway to turn a longtime hobby into a second career. He started playing golf as a graduate student at Boston College in Massachusetts and has been playing ever since.

Throughout his teaching career, Yergey spent summer breaks and holidays traveling to distant golf clubs, often volunteering to help with tournaments like the 1995 U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Championship and the 1999 Ryder Cup in Florida.

In his early 50s, he began questioning his commitment to teaching and toyed with the idea of becoming a professional golf instructor but was concerned about finances.

In the summer of 2022, he saw an opportunity to start the change: Penn State Golf Course was looking for volunteers. “They needed people to help with timing and pace of the play, and I said, ‘What the heck, I’m a high school golf coach, I can go do that,’ ” Yergey recalls.

That summer, he also volunteered for two more events. Growing in confidence, he applied for an internship with a junior golf association but was rejected.

spinner image karl yergey in the drivers seat of a golf cart
Yergey decided to pursue a career in golf administration after working as a teacher for many years.
Rory Doyle

It was at that point that he found the P.J. Boatwright Internship Program, run by the U.S. Golf Association. Boatwright interns learn to manage all aspects of the game, working 40 hours a week at any one of the USGA’s 58 Allied Golf Associations across the country. Internships run from three months to a year. Participants receive a monthly income — $2,000 in Yergey’s case — depending upon the association. There is no age cap and no requirement that an applicant be a degree-seeking college student.

Yergey landed an internship with the Alabama Golf Association. As that role comes to an end, he reflects on his experience as being the senior member of his cohort.

“We learned from each other,” he says. “The media intern showed me some things that they were doing with social media [and] if I had a question about technology, and I certainly did, the other interns could help me with that. But … I was giving work advice, and I was giving advice to one of the other interns who is working on her master’s degree.”

As a former teacher, “I’ve always been the oldest person in the room” he says.

“I am incredibly self-deprecating. I have no problem making fun of myself. It’s one of those things that I learned as a teacher. It helps build relationships. That’s true in this position as well.”

spinner image barbara morrow stands on a golf course
Barbara Morrow, another USGA Boatwright intern, worked for the Northern Nevada Golf Association.

Some retirees become interns to try new careers

Internships also can be good opportunities for people who have decided to unretire but want to try a different career. Barbara Morrow, 58, of Reno, Nevada, served for 34 years with the Air National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Air Force. When she retired as a brigadier general, something was missing — most notably, the camaraderie that comes with being a part of an organization.

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“Everybody says, ‘Oh, retire, travel, do this, do that.’ Well, there’s only so much traveling that you can do,” she says.

“I worked basically my whole life, and when I retired during Covid, it was kind of a strange transition. You think it’s all glamorous, and you’re going to be in your motor home driving around,” Morrow says. “That just wasn’t for me, and it’s not for me now.”

Her interest in golf developed when her husband invited her to join him on the green. As a young athlete, she had excelled in sports, from discus to basketball. Just this year, her alma mater inducted her into its basketball hall of fame. But in the game of golf, Morrow was a rookie.

“I had my mother’s old golf clubs and I didn’t know what I was doing, so [my husband] bought me golf lessons,” she says.

In the quest to find a community, Morrow joined a women’s club that played golf together on Thursdays, but that wasn’t enough. When the Northern Nevada Golf Association (NNGA) announced that it was hiring Boatwright interns, Morrow applied.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get a phone call … I’m not really the demographic for an internship,” she says.

Initially, Morrow expected to work in the office when the current bookkeeper retires, but her plans evolved when she was exposed to tournament administration.

“In the military, I ran special events. I had to organize deployments around the world, so this [role] was just second nature,” she says.

spinner image barbara morrow swinging a golf club
Morrow, a retired brigadier general in the Air National Guard, said that full retirement was "kind of a strange transition."
Carl Costas

Internships can lead to full-time employment

Greg Wyatt, 68,has a guaranteed job once he completes his internship at Eagle Bend Golf in Kansas. As a retired Kansas Department of Transportation employee, who also happened to be a competitive golfer, Wyatt was invited to apply for the internship by the bosses at Central Links Golf.

Casey Old, director of rules and competitions at Central Links, has known Wyatt for at least 20 years.

“He worked part time at several golf courses around the area, and that’s how I got to know him. He started playing at some of our events and got more interested in what we did here and in tournament administration,” Old says. “We decided to expand his role and offer him this Boatwright internship, and next year he will be in a more permanent position.”

“He knew so much about golf already and he knew so much about the golf side of it, that for him, [the internship] was more about getting some experience on more of the technology side of it, getting to know all of our staff members better and getting to know the ins-and-outs of the tournament operation side of it,” Old says.

Wyatt says he has learned a lot. “I’ve been given other duties than what I had when I was just volunteering,” among them being Golf Genius, a software program.

“I love it,” he says. “It’s basically what I’ve been doing as a volunteer except the USGA is paying.”

When his internship ends in October, Wyatt will continue volunteering until March, when he starts his new job, Old says. “He’ll be helping run tournaments exclusively, all over the state, wherever we need him to go to run tournaments.”

How to find a returnship

No list exists of all the returnship programs that are available, “but about 80 percent of career reentry programs are returnships,” says Carol Fishman Cohen, chair and cofounder of the career-reentry firm iRelaunch, which works with 70 global companies that have such programs.

“They involve a paid internship-like experience typically lasting for 12 to 24 weeks … 85 percent of participants are getting hired.”

You can search for opportunities on iRelaunch’s job board here.

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