PGA Championship Week kicked off in inspirational style at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, with “Beyond the Green: Turn Your Passion into a Profession” - a special mentoring and networking event for 60 high school and college students who are members of the Young Black Leadership Alliance (YBLA) of Charlotte.
The program was designed to encourage future leaders to understand how the game of golf can provide professional and personal relationships throughout their lives, in order to succeed.
The students were treated to a stirring keynote speech by three-time Daytime Emmy Nominated Actor Dondre Whitfield and speed networking with the likes of: PGA President Paul Levy, PGA Vice President Suzy Whaley, Bank of America Executive Vice President Kieth Cockrell, ESPN College Game Day/ABC College Football Reporter Maria Taylor and Charlotte Hornets/FOX Sports Southeast NBA Game Analyst Stephanie Ready.
In addition, the students were treated to a personal tour of the massive operations of the PGA Championship from PGA Members Whaley and PGA of America Director of Youth Golf Development Bob Baldassari; a thought-provoking golf talk panel discussion; and a case study competition.
Throughout the day, the importance of learning from a mentor and identifying positive role models were stressed as keys to success.
“Whatever you want to do in life, whatever you’re doing, you have to find someone who is doing what you are pursuing, so they can show you how to do what they are doing,” said Whitfield.
“Listen, learn and share as young leaders, as young professionals,” said PGA Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion Sandy Cross, who hosted the event.
Whitfield also stressed living life with a purpose.
“Acting is not a purpose,” explained Whitfield. “It is my passion. Golf is my passion. But when you do transformational work, you can change someone’s life.”
Yet, mentoring actually works both ways, as it impacts both the mentor and the protégé.
“The students of YBLA were extremely intelligent, driven and thoroughly impressive,” said ESPN/ABC’s Taylor. “During the speed networking portion, I not only learned about each student's personal goals but I also found out that there were several individuals that I could help accomplish their goals by connecting them to my network.”
Meanwhile, Whitfield explained how failure can be a key to a person’s success, citing how the late Steve Jobs was once fired by Apple’s Board of Directors in 1985, before being hired back several years later to lead the company to unprecedented heights. Whitfield also cited his own struggles growing up with a father who spent time in prison. Despite all of that, he went on to become an actor early in life on “The Cosby Show,” before having roles on “All My Children,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and “Queen Sugar.”
“If you learn how to fail, but fail properly, you will figure out your purpose in life,” said Whitfield.
As YBLA of Charlotte CEO and Founder John Martin explained, the day was about “exposure and opportunity.” And that opportunity was clear to the YBLA members in the audience.
“It’s been eye popping for me—it’s changed my perspective of golf,” said Joshua Ussery, 17, of Charlotte.
“This is a humbling opportunity for me,” said Bryce Kamagate, a student at North Carolina Central, who has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. “Golf is such a great sport in that it can help me in the business I want to do.”
The students closed with an activity to discover how their perceptions about golf had changed from when the program began in the morning into the afternoon.
“I didn’t realize golf could bring people closer,” added Zerrick Collier, 19, an aerospace engineering student at Tuskegee University. “It’s about the relationship between brothers and sisters, and treating each other with class and respect.”
The program will go well Beyond the Green by extending the relationships established.
“I look forward to following the progress of the students I met and helping them achieve their goals,” said Taylor. “I’m so happy that the PGA supports such an impactful initiative.”
YBLA focuses on leadership development for young black men and women. Their vision is to create a new reality where young black men and women are sought out as leaders. YBLA accomplishes this by promoting positive images about young black men and women, developing their leadership capabilities, and imparting a goal for academic excellence. The young leaders give back by mentoring younger students, performing local and international community service, and public speaking.