Game Changers

A Q&A With the Women Behind the Western New York PGA

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The women of Western New York continue to spearhead countless programs and initiatives that are making the game of golf more welcoming and inclusive to all.  Led by Executive Director, Tori Schiro, now in her second year in the role, the Western New York PGA Section has seen monumental growth just in the last 365 days.
“Obviously it was an incredible honor to host the PGA Championship in our Section at Oak Hill in 2023,” says Tori.  “Even though our staff is smaller than some of the other Sections, we held our own and it was an unbelievable week.  The golf community definitely rallied and it was the perfect spark to welcome others to the game who may have never played before.”
Western New York PGA Executive Director Tori Schiro.
Western New York PGA Executive Director Tori Schiro.
One of the ways golf is becoming more inclusive is through the PGA WORKS Fellowship, which serves as a career pipeline designed to diversify the golf industry workforce and shape the next generation of leaders. The Fellowship is a one-year paid immersion into a PGA of America Section’s operations, and is designed to show young leaders what a career in golf can provide.
This is where we find two of the newest team members of the Western New York PGA Section – Mollie Mars and Abigail Gibson – who both currently serve as the Section’s PGA WORKS Fellows.  When you speak with Mollie and Abigail, it becomes clear rather quickly their passions for creating a better world for women everywhere – even beyond golf.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we sat down with Tori, Mollie and Abigail to talk about their journeys in golf and how they are making an impact in the Western New York community.

Last year the PGA Championship came to your backyard.  Can you talk about the buzz in and around the Western New York community and how you've seen the golf landscape change just in the last year?
TS:  The PGA Championship was such a big undertaking on many levels, but also so rewarding to see the hard work pay off.  Even people who weren’t necessarily into golf or called themselves golfers showed up to the Championship – you saw folks from all walks of life attending.  All of our programming the year following the Championship and going into this new year has really boomed.  Additionally, through the PGA Places To Play grant we were able to build a brand new golf facility very close to the City of Rochester which will provide even more access for people who may not have been exposed to the game before.
Mollie and Abigail, can you talk about what it means to represent the Western New York Section as a PGA WORKS Fellow?
Abigail Gibson and Mollie Mars.
Abigail Gibson and Mollie Mars.
MM:  I would say it’s about personal and professional growth – the Fellowship is super comprehensive where we are getting on-course and off-course experiences.  For me it’s all about breaking barriers and glass ceilings not only for yourself, but empowering others in similar positions as me to do the same.  
AG:  Growing up for me, the perception was always that golf was a male-dominated sport.  Now as a Fellow it’s granted me the opportunity to showcase my talent and given me a platform to grow and that perception has certainly changed seeing others like myself become successful within the industry.  PGA WORKS sort of allows that growth to happen naturally by bringing in different insights and backgrounds to the game.
There’s only seven women in the country who assume the role of Executive Director at a PGA of America Section.  Tori, what does that figure mean to you as one of those seven?
TS:  It doesn’t sit lightly.  Knowing I’m one of seven out there who are trying to make an impact on the game and make an impact for women – it’s a big role.  Every chance I get to speak up about women in the industry, I take that opportunity.   I throw that statistic out there all the time – ‘I’m one of seven!’ which is a record. 

Sometimes it’s a little weird stepping into a board room and there’s seventeen men and I’m the only woman – I just keep in mind the goal of making sure one day that room looks different.

Tori Schiro
We’ve certainly never had seven women in this role before and to see it continue to grow hits hard.  I’d like to see it get to twenty, but it means a lot.
How do you all feel like you are changing the golf industry and do you feel like you’re making history in the game of golf?
AG:  This role certainly opens up the door to enter into the golf industry and encourages me not to feel so timid and shy behind the realm of a male-dominated industry.  Being in Western New York and seeing women like Tori really living out what this looks like allows me to visualize the same path for my own career.
MM:  Change is certainly all about representation, and as a female working in the sports industry I’m actively increasing the visibility of underrepresented groups within the industry.  So being more actively involved in my role I can help challenge those stereotypes.  Through this, I hope I’m making it easier for people of all backgrounds to feel like they are welcomed, valued and have a voice too.
TS:  I definitely see us as trailblazers.  We’re certainly leading the charge when it comes to opening that conversation within golf.  Sometimes it’s a little weird stepping into a board room and there’s seventeen men and I’m the only woman – I just keep in mind the goal of making sure one day that room looks different.  Here in Western New York, we’re making those small steps towards big change.
How does Women’s History Month resonate with you personally or professionally in your positions at the Western New York PGA Section Office?
MM:  I think it’s important to recognize the hard work of those women who have come before us and realizing there are sometimes hundreds of ‘no’s’ before a ‘yes’ comes along.  Women’s History Month is about celebrating that ‘yes’ while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done to bring more women into the game.
AG:  Seeing the glass ceilings that have been broken by all women in golf, whether they are newer to the industry or have been around for their entire careers, makes me feel as though I can do the same – that makes me feel empowered in my position as a PGA WORKS Fellow.
TS:  I would definitely echo what Abigail and Mollie have to say.  There’s still lots to be done and we are still fighting for a lot.
Tori, how have you seen the PGA WORKS Fellowship transform the operations within the Western New York Section?
TS:  Having a PGA WORKS Fellow in our office has allowed our Section’s Foundation to reach its full potential.  The Fellowship has given us the bandwidth to reach further into the community and this position has played a critical role in the growth of all our programming.  In this instance, with Mollie and Abigail as our two Fellows and the four who have come before them, our Foundation would not see this kind of growth.  The area here in Western New York is booming, so the PGA WORKS Fellowship is certainly supporting our little golf hub up here and all of our player development programs.
Abigail and Mollie, for you two in your roles – how does seeing Tori in her role inspire you for your future careers?
AG:  Tori has shown a lot in her role about what is possible for women.  She’s a mom and in this high-profile role and she does both so well.  There’s this misconception sometimes that women have to be at home taking care of the kids or being around the house.  I know that she even finds the time to teach dance classes on the side and understands how to balance life so well.  Tori is proof that women can have everything and do it well. 

Tori has shown a lot in her role about what is possible for women.  She’s a mom and in this high-profile role and she does both so well.

Abigail Gibson
MM:  One of the most exciting parts about applying for this position was the fact that it was an all-women team at the time.  When I saw that, I thought it was so unique and the perfect way for me to break into the industry.  Being able to have someone like Tori to look up to so that I feel empowered to make change has made all the difference in my experience as a PGA WORKS Fellow – it’s pretty cool.
How would you all define success?
MM:  For me in both my personal and professional lives, success means finding fulfillment.  Of course professional success is going to contribute to personal fulfillment, but I think it’s important for success to encompass a holistic perspective too.  Finding that balance and integrating both of these – whatever that may look like – can allow you to do everything that you want to do.
AG:  Happiness all around is where I find the most success.  Doing what I want to do with my career where I come in every day and I can say to myself ‘this is what I want to be doing,’ is happiness.  In my personal life, family is super important to me so being sure I do get time with them is crucial.  Also getting the opportunity to see the world and sort of immerse myself in different cultures.  All around, having that balance as Tori and Mollie mentioned is what I strive for. 
TS:  Double ditto!  

PGA WORKS is a career pipeline designed to diversify the golf industry workforce and shape the next generation of leaders.  PGA WORKS opens the door for new professionals to make an impact on the industry and beyond.  To learn more & donate, visit