Diversity Front of Mind for PGA Ahead of Big Move

With diversity issues long facing its membership and golf in general, the association sees opportunity for improvement as it moves to the Dallas area in the coming years.

The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America) knows it has a problem that lingers from deep in its history, but it’s taking steps to right the ship—and sees a change of scenery as a potential opportunity.

The association, which recently announced it’s moving its headquarters from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to Frisco, Texas, says it hopes the new locale—along with a more than $520 million investment in the region, a mixture of public and private funds—helps with a long-term diversity challenge that has dogged the group and the sport of golf as a whole.

“Our move to Frisco will be transcendent for the PGA of America,” said Seth Waugh, the group’s CEO, in a news release.

As a part of that transcendence, the group is opening up about its lingering diversity problem to the local media. As the Dallas News notes, the association has a membership that is 91 percent white and almost 96 percent male. Mike Cooper, who chairs the World Golf Foundation’s diversity task force and is himself African-American—says the sport still has more work to do increase inclusion and better reflect nationwide demographics.

“Golf has created a number of initiatives to bring more diversity and inclusion to the game and recently to the industry itself, and it still is not reflective of the demographic in America,” Cooper told the newspaper. “We’re seeing some progress, but it still does not match.”

But there are some promising signs for the sport, says Sandy Cross, the senior director of diversity and inclusion for PGA of America, who notes that diversity has increased significantly among the association’s staff—with racial and ethnic minorities making up 19.5 percent of its 260-member workforce, nearly double what it was five years ago.

Cross told the newspaper there was potential to further improve its staff diversity in the new market.

“Being in a market like Dallas-Fort Worth, I think that can be unbelievable for us,” she told the News. “I think the multicultural population there … really gives us such an opportunity to further increase the diversity, all dimensions of diversity on our staff. So I find that very exciting.”

In addition, the association elected its first female board chair, Suzy Whaley, last month. “Our goal in diversity and inclusion is really to evolve the game, to evolve our workforce, and to really evolve our supply chains to mirror our community,” she told the newspaper.

PGA of America has put much work into boosting the diversity of golf in recent years. For  example, it announced an initiative earlier this year with Jopwell, a career-placement firm, to bring minority candidates to positions throughout the golf industry.

Pete Bevacqua, who preceded Waugh in the PGA of America CEO role before he left in September, admitted that diversity remains the sport’s greatest long-term challenge.

“I think we would all agree, or most of us would agree, that the face of this game has to change if it’s going to grow,” he said during an August press conference. “It needs to look more like the face of America.”

(laflor/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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