More Than Just a Career Expo: Creating Opportunities at the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship
By Michael Abramowitz, PGA of America
For graduating seniors, imagine a capstone to your college career, as the real world rapidly comes calling.
For juniors and underclassmen, picture a Master Class on what the future holds in store within a dynamic $84 billion industry that offers 2 million jobs and the golden opportunity for growth, especially among diverse groups.
Over 160 college students, mostly representing HBCUs, Hispanic Serving Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions, and competing at TPC Sawgrass in the recent PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship -- “The Most Culturally Significant Championship in Collegiate Golf” -- descended upon the sparkling new PGA TOUR Global Home last week for a reimagined PGA WORKS Career Expo.
Yet, it was much more than just your run-of-the-mill job fair.
With COVID-19 top of mind, the teams were split into two waves, each having their own room to virtually explore the door that is wide open to a career across the golf industry, just in case those dreams of playing on the PGA or LPGA Tour don’t come to fruition.
The students were welcomed with messages from PGA of America President Jim Richerson and CEO Seth Waugh...NBC Sports Group Chairman Pete Bevacqua (Waugh’s predecessor at the PGA of America)...and PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan, who also personally made the rounds across the building, introducing himself to students who represented inclusion, diversity and hope.
“Together, our goal is to expand access and create opportunity for students like you to discover the golf industry, so you can turn your passion into a profession,” said Richerson.
“I encourage you to listen and take it all in,” added Monahan.
It was also about shining a spotlight on what golf can do in return.
“Separately and collectively, we all recognize that student-athletes from HBCUs, Hispanic Serving Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions are a key and growing part of the next generation of leaders who will serve as agents of change in golf,” said Waugh.
“At Golf Channel, we take pride in bringing your stories to life,” added Bevacqua.
PGA of America Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Price and Chief People Officer Sandy Cross also visited personally with the students, giving them access to difference makers who can turn the dreaded job search into a dream career literally overnight.
“Every college golfer dreams about playing on TOUR, but whether I play the game or work in corporate golf, I want to be a part of it,” said Florida A&M graduating Senior Mulbe Dillard, 22, of Chicago, a Finance major.
“While my ultimate dream is to play professional golf, it is more important to me to provide inspiration to the people who follow me,” added his teammate, Graduate Student Prince Cunningham, 22, of Jacksonville, Florida. “I want to eventually give back to get this game and industry to look like me.”
Panel discussions focused on careers goals, workforce development and welcoming the next generation to the possibilities of golf. Meanwhile, Ambassadors gave a first-hand perspective of what it is like to work in an industry that saw rounds of golf grow exponentially last year, to the tune of nearly 14 percent growth, the largest since Tiger Woods came on the scene.
“This gives us a better opportunity to exist, to have the students sit and listen to new perspectives,” said PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship Director Scooter Clark. “In addition to presenting a pathway to PGA Membership, they were able to hear other people’s journeys and other people’s testimonials about what it is like to have a career in the golf industry.”
The event was a first-ever partnership between PGA REACH, PGA TOUR and Comcast NBC Universal.
“This allows for us to fit hand-in-glove with our partners across the entire industry to create inclusion,” added Clark. “It is a global effort. It is eye opening. I call it the ‘aha moment.’ To see it first-hand, they’re engaged.”
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The golf industry just launched a new initiative to drive inclusion entitled “Make Golf Your Thing.” Since the students have already made golf their thing, it is imperative to take it to the next level, in order to grow the game across the rapidly emerging market of ethnic diversity.
“The next generation is so much more driven by purpose than we’ve ever been,” said PGA of America Chief Innovation Officer Arjun Chowdri during a panel discussion. “The beauty of golf is the ability to give back, so much so that we make golf the foundation and build upon it. That way, people are moving with a sense of purpose.”
For Linda Yang, of St. John’s University in New York, a two-time winner of the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship Women’s Individual Division, it provided a glimpse of what could be dawning on the horizon. “It makes me feel hopeful for the industry.”
“This is about access and opportunity,” explained PGA WORKS Program Lead Rachel Melendez-Mabee. “The golf industry is able to provide jobs that go beyond teaching and playing the sport, and we are setting up these student-athletes for success. We are translating their love of the sport into a career journey.”
Noor Ahmed, 22, of Sacramento, California, is a Senior majoring in History at the University of Nebraska and a future graduate student at the University of Central Florida. “It’s really exciting to see athletes being recruited to work in the golf industry. It’s been a great four years for me. I couldn’t ask for a better golf experience. I want to work in the golf industry.”
All in a day’s Master Class for the future.