For three weeks in September and October, The PGA of America hosted one of the 16 women from around the world who participated in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program. Now in its second year, this program supports the United States global commitment toward advancing the rights and participation of women and girls globally, using sports as a vehicle towards greater opportunity and inclusion.
Christine Garrity, chief administrative officer & general counsel, and Sandy Cross, director of women's & new market initiatives for The PGA, served as mentors to Hayam Essam of Egypt. They provided Essam with valuable skills, experience, and access to networks that can lead to future opportunities back in her home community. The mentors also helped construct a strategic action plan with Essam, in an effort to create additional sports opportunities for underserved women and girls in Egypt.
Essam, 32, has played basketball at the highest levels in Egypt, representing both her university and the national team. A former captain of Egypt's Shooting Club premier women's team, Essem is currently supervising two women's basketball teams in her home country and is the only female serving on the governing basketball committee.
Through this program, Essam is looking to provide opportunities for girls and women to become leaders in the predominately male sports environment in Egypt. While her initial focus will utilize basketball to provide life and social skills for girls ages 9-11, Essam hopes to expand her efforts to eventually include other sports.
To help shape her action plan, Essam met with nearly every department at PGA headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program is consistent with The PGA's strategic focus on making the game more inclusive for women and girls, as well as golf's increasing international relevance as the sport prepares to return to the 2016 Olympic Games.
In addition to The PGA, other entities participating in the program include: ESPN, NCAA, NHL, Proctor & Gamble, United States Olympic Committee and WNBA.
PGALinks.com sat with Essam at the end of her stay to talk about her first visit to the United States and her participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program ...
Q: Why did you want to become involved in the Program?
The Global Sports Mentoring Program provided a unique opportunity for me to help underserved girls in Egypt. There is definitely a need in my country to help young girls learn life and social skills in a stable, secure, supervised environment, something that would not have been possible two short years ago.
Q: How long was the process; what did you have to do to be accepted in the program?
I found out about this program through a friend in March 2013, and submitted my application about an hour before the deadline. I went through interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and two-to-three interviews via Skype with the University of Tennessee, which coordinates the program. I found out I was accepted into the program just a few weeks before I was scheduled to come to the United States.
Q: What did you know about golf prior to your visit? Where you assigned to The PGA?
I had no prior golf experience, but based on the program I want to establish in Egypt, The PGA was the perfect fit for me. I was able to take a golf lesson while in South Florida and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I've already talked to friends back home about taking lessons and playing golf when we can.
Q: You arrived in Washington, D.C., a week prior to coming to The PGA. Tell us what that was like?
It was my first experience in the United States, so I was pretty nervous. I didn't really know what to expect. I was able to meet the other woman in the program and learn a little of their goals.
Q: Having been in the United States for a month now, what are your impressions?
I am so impressed with the willingness of the staff at The PGA to share their knowledge. Everyone was so helpful and friendly, and I can tell everyone has a passion for what they do just by the way they speak about The PGA. I have made life-long friends and will be very sad to leave.
Q: Did you try anything new while in South Florida?
Oysters. Nobody thought I would try this and it wasn't until I posted a picture on Facebook did they believe me. I also tried paddle boarding for the first time; at home, we have "sand boarding" which is just like snowboarding except on sand!
Q: Tell us about your typical day at The PGA ...
I was able to participate in several meetings each day, listening to many PGA staff members as they talk about their programs and initiatives. I would also work on the strategic plan I'm developing for my program, and talk to people about how to implement it.
Q: You spent a day at The First Tee in St. Augustine, Fla. Why did you go there and what did you learn?
I was able to spend several hours at The First Tee, meeting with a number of people. Their program is a perfect model for me, as they look to empowers youngsters through sports by teaching them life and social skills in a stable, secure, supervised environment.
Q: How do you believe your experience at The PGA of America can assist you with your goals back home?
For me, it was a life-changing experience, both personal and for my career. Meeting new people and trying new things have given me added confidence to go back to Egypt and begin to implement my program. I now realize there are people out there who can help and who care about what I want to do in my country. By playing sports, you learn a lot about what can help you in life.