Game Changers

Celebrating Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month in Golf

By Hayden Lewis, PGA
Published on

This May, as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are proud to feature two changemakers who are just getting started as future golf industry leaders. 
Leah Im, PGA, and Emily Gustafson.
They share a common history.  As John & Tamara Lundgren PGA WORKS Scholars, both are already on a track in the industry that is leading to new opportunities.
Awarded to PGA Golf Management University students, the John & Tamara Lundgren PGA WORKS Scholarship is awarded in the amount of $8,000 to students from historically underrepresented backgrounds pursuing a PGA Golf Management (PGM) University Program degree at one of the accredited PGM educational institutions. These students earn their bachelor’s degree in a golf industry compatible major, have the ability to apply for PGA of America Membership, and earn the right to wear one of the most recognized logos in sports.
Since 2018, 93  scholarships have been provided equaling $744,000.
Leah, who graduated recently from the University of Nevada Las Vegas now serves full-time at nearby TPC Summerlin as a PGA Assistant Golf Professional.  Emily is gearing up for graduation soon from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln's PGA Golf Management program, and will soon join Leah, amongst over 30,000 others, as a PGA of America Member later this year.
We spoke to both about their journeys so far.
How did you get to where you are today?  Was golf always part of your history or do you feel like the sport found you?
Leah Im, PGA:  I was first introduced to the sport at 6 years old when my dad enrolled me in classes at the local First Tee program. Through this great organization, I was able to learn the game along with important life skills. In high school, my golf coach introduced me to the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. This was the start of my journey to becoming a PGA Professional. Every step of the way has been meaningful and enjoyable. 
A young Emily Gustafson and her family in China.
A young Emily Gustafson and her family in China.
Emily Gustafson:  I was adopted at a very young age from China and have lived the majority of my life in Holdrege, Nebraska. My dad, mom and older sister played a little which is how I got introduced to the sport.  I talked to a couple small colleges about playing collegiate golf but ultimately decided on the University of Nebraska’s PGA Golf Management program.  I double majored with Graphic Design at first, but after my first internship I decided to drop Graphic Design and focus solely on PGM.
What does being an Asian-American John & Tamara Lundgren PGA WORKS Scholar mean to you?
LI:  Being one of the few Asian-American John & Tamara Lundgren PGA WORKS Scholars is such an honor because it allows me to represent the vast population of Asian golfers in the nation and community.
EG:  Even though I grew up in a white family in a predominantly white town in Nebraska, I take great pride in my Chinese ethnicity.  The scholarship has given me the opportunity to contribute to the growing diversity that strengthens the PGA community. Being a scholar drives me to excel in my passions and future career, knowing that I am supported by a group dedicated to fostering talent and expanding access to the sport. 
How do you feel like you are changing the golf industry?
EG:  As an Asian-American pursuing PGA of America Membership, I am helping to break down barriers and inspire others from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue their passion for golf.

"Every step of the way has been meaningful and enjoyable."

Leah Im, PGA
While I may not see myself as making history in the traditional sense, I believe that every step toward a more inclusive and diverse golf community is significant. By striving for excellence and sharing my journey, I hope to pave the way for future generations and show that golf is a sport for everyone.
Do you feel like PGA WORKS is changing the history of golf? 
LI:  The mission of PGA WORKS really resonates with me. The program helps people like me get into the golf industry and flourish. As a PGA WORKS Scholar, I was able to finish school without heavy financial burden and created many opportunities for me to meet people from different walks of life in the golf industry. Beyond this, PGA WORKS has so many different avenues where they connect scholars with industry professionals and create spaces where they can flourish. 
Leah, now that you are a brand new PGA of America Member, how are you taking what you learned in your time at UNLV and applying it at TPC Summerlin?
LI:  During my internships and volunteer experiences at UNLV, I was heavily involved in helping with junior camps and PGA Jr. League.
Junior golf is a big part of Leah Im's journey so far in golf.
Junior golf is a big part of Leah Im's journey so far in golf.
Through the help of the PGA of America Members that I worked with during that time, I absorbed a wealth of information working with juniors and that has helped me a lot at TPC Summerlin as I have been running junior camps and PGA Jr. League for our members. 
Emily, how do you plan to take what you learned during your time as a student at Nebraska and apply it to your career?
EG:  Dave Honnens, the CEO of the Nebraska PGA Section, has been a huge mentor for me as I’ve gone through the program. The PGA Golf Management program equipped me with a solid foundation in golf operations, management and teaching, which I aim to leverage in my professional roles. We have the advantage of going on multiple internships so we are prepared to actively work in the golf industry anywhere in the world. 
What do you think of when you think about this month?
EG:  It's a time of reflection.  Growing up in a predominantly white community, sometimes my culture feels lost. I’m not actively practicing the traditions of my heritage.

During this month, it’s a moment to take pride in my heritage, to share my experience and culture with others, and to draw inspiration from the successes of those who came before me. 

Emily Gustafson
During this month, I’m not only embracing the culture of what I was raised in but the culture of my ancestors that I may never know. It’s a moment to take pride in my heritage, to share my experience and culture with others, and to draw inspiration from the successes of those who came before me. 
How do you feel the next generation of women in golf needs to prepare themselves for a successful career?
EG:  As a woman in golf, the path to success is not linear.  It’s important to surround yourself with others who love and support you.   It makes the challenges seem easier and smaller. I’m thankful for the PGA of America who actively strives for a more diverse culture and where they praise and respect the women in the industry.
LI:  The number of women involved in the golf industry have been growing tremendously over the years and I hope this momentum continues. It may be daunting at times coming into the male dominated field because there are not many people in the industry that might look like us. However, my advice for a successful career is to develop strong relationships with people that will support you and your ambitions. Having a great support system can help you overcome any obstacle. 

Learn more about the John & Tamara Lundgren PGA WORKS Scholarship at