Game Changers

Bridget Ackley, PGA: Welcoming All to the Game

By Anthony Witrado
Published on
Ackley is the PGA Teaching Professional at Lake Forest Golf Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ackley is the PGA Teaching Professional at Lake Forest Golf Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Bridget Ackley’s dream was alive, and she was intent on pursuing it.
She had a successful junior golf and high school career, so the Wisconsin native went on to play college golf at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Indeed, she was living out her dream.
Until the summer going into her sophomore year. That’s when Ackley was involved in a serious car accident that left her without use of her left hand for about 18 months. During her playing hiatus, as the teenager pondered her future in the game, she caught the teaching bug.
“That’s really when I started to change my focus more to coaching,” Ackley says.
Ackley's passion for the game grew immensely through coaching and drove her to pursue a career in golf.
Ackley's passion for the game grew immensely through coaching and drove her to pursue a career in golf.
It was also when Ackley truly started understanding how LGBTQ+ golfers and communities fit into the game’s landscape, and how she could be among their advocates for making it more welcoming and inclusive. It’s partly why she earned her PGA of America Membership in 2018, and why she was chosen to be part of the PGA LEAD Class of 2021-2022.
PGA LEAD is a way for diverse Members to work their way into governance and leadership roles within the Association at the Chapter, Section and National levels. That attracted Ackley, who believes this is a way to effect change and acceptance for underrepresented people in golf, particularly those from LGBTQ+ communities.
Studies are finding larger numbers of people identifying as LGBTQ+,as high as 30% of Millennials and nearly 40% of Gen Z. As that population expands in the public eye, so does its spending power and participation in golf. As Ackley and others see it, the facilities willing to create a welcoming experience for those people are going to reap the benefits.
Ackley, who is part of the LGBTQ+ population, believes giving people from different backgrounds a voice can lead to changes in how the game is perceived, how the workforce looks and acts, and how people (including parents) are willing to give the game a chance.
Ackley takes a selfie with students.
Ackley takes a selfie with students.
“Being part of that community, and also a golfer, there’s a very large community out there that many don’t even know exist at their golf course,” says Ackley, who is the PGA Teaching Professional at Lake Forest Golf Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The older generation of golfers in the LGBTQ+ community, a lot of them are still very closeted when they go to the course because they are so used to attitudes toward somebody who’s different, so they just stick to their own games. My philosophy around creating things as a teacher, whether it’s for adults of juniors, I want it to be welcoming for everyone.”
The gestures don’t have to be grand, Ackley says. Nobody needs to paint their clubhouse like a rainbow or fly pride flags above the 18th green – unless they want to, of course. Simple things can make it known that all people can feel comfortable at a golf facility, and it can lead to large swaths of people frequenting those businesses they believe want them there.
“If I ever owned a golf course,” Ackley says, “I’d have a big sign on the front that says, ‘All are welcome.’ Because that’s the invitation most facilities are missing, and it makes a big difference.”
Ackley also makes sure her junior golfers feel welcomed. She was named a U.S. Kids Top 50 Coach in 2020 after earning honorable mentions in 2018 and 2019, a Top 100 GRAA Growth of the Game Teaching Professional in 2020 and 2021, and the 2021 South Florida PGA Section Youth Player Development Award recipient. Those accomplishments come in part because of how Ackley’s students and parents speak of her being a friend and mentor, not just a coach.

My philosophy around creating things as a teacher, whether it’s for adults or juniors, I want it to be welcoming for everyone.

Bridget Ackley, PGA
Ackley makes sure her juniors know they can come to her with non-golf issues, that they can trust her because she operates in a judgment-free world with them. If the golf industry operated similarly, that could change the way it looks and is represented.
Bridget Ackley, PGA is a U.S. Kids Golf Level 2 Certified Coach, U.S. Kids Top 50 Coach, two-time GRAA Top 100 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional, and was recently honored with the 2021 South Florida PGA Section Youth Player Development Award.
Bridget Ackley, PGA is a U.S. Kids Golf Level 2 Certified Coach, U.S. Kids Top 50 Coach, two-time GRAA Top 100 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional, and was recently honored with the 2021 South Florida PGA Section Youth Player Development Award.
“We need to start seeing people of color, people of the LGBTQ+ community, underrepresented communities in leadership positions,” Ackley says. “If not, how are we going to welcome these groups into golf?
“Everybody in golf has a responsibility to welcome others to the game, not just PGA Professionals. But it is our job also to create those welcoming environments, so others can help people find the game.”

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