Leading Through Inclusion and Equity: The Florida Gulf Coast PGM Program
By Anthony Witrado
The Ladies of FGCU PGA Golf Management with Director Tara McKenna, PGA.
A dislike of sailing. Missing her friends. A reluctant early morning tee time, and a bag tag.
Those were the ingredients that eventually led Lou Conseil into the PGA Golf Management University Program at Florida Gulf Coast University, where she has helped lead an influx of women and historical changes to its student governance. Eighteen universities offer the PGM Program, providing classroom and internship experience as well as player-development opportunities that allow students to earn degrees in areas such as marketing, business administration and hospitality administration that would help them succeed in the golf industry.
Conseil is currently the program’s first female vice president of the student executive board and in line to become president. However, she will graduate from the program this spring and move on to a job with The Amundi Evian Championship (LPGA) in her home country of France.
Her successor, Grace McKinnon, will then become the program’s first female student executive board president next semester. She will lead a board made up entirely of women aside from a male VP and treasurer. The program’s Assistant Director, Martha “Marty” Hall, is also female, and as a program, FGCU has the second-highest rate of female students amongst PGM programs with 12% (18 total). Methodist University has the highest rate and number (23%, 22 total).
“Lou is phenomenal, and she really has been the driving force behind recruiting the women and encouraging them to participate,” said Program Director and PGA Member Tara McKenna, one of only three female PGM program directors in the country. “The face of student associations for PGM programs has always been men, historically. So to have essentially an all female board is pretty amazing and it’s never happened in the history of PGM.”
A “Life-Changing” Chance Meeting
Conseil’s golf life started because she disliked being on the high school sailing team. Her parents allowed her to quit if she picked up another sport, and because she had friends on the golf team, she joined. Fast forward a few years to Conseil’s senior year. She planned on attending college in Europe to focus on hospitality, which would’ve forced her to give up golf.
Then, one morning during her senior year, her father booked an early morning tee time at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, which Conseil wasn’t too excited about.
“It’s Saturday, I’m a senior in high school. I didn’t want to wake up,” Conseil said with a laugh. “But it was a life-changing round of golf.”
During the round, one of the two men Conseil and her father were paired with noticed her high school tag on her golf bag and asked her about her future plans. She told him about college in Europe and how it meant no more golf.
The man worked at the PGA of America and asked Conseil to meet with him the following week, and that’s where she learned about the PGM programs and FGCU.
Becoming a Leader for Change
Since enrolling, Conseil – along with other women in the program – has become integral in recruiting female students into governance and leadership roles within the PGM program.
“When I toured the school, I met Tara and Marty. Just having that female presence in the office is huge, especially for a male-dominated industry,” Conseil said. “It’s intimidating when you’re in orientation and you have a male-dominated board talking to you, and you can’t always relate to what they’re saying. Having Tara and Marty in those roles helped a lot, so I understand what it means and how it can have an impact to see other women here.”
Conseil understood that for the program to be at its best, female students needed others to lean on besides McKenna and Hall. They needed peers who could relate, so as a freshman, Conseil got involved.
“It was to make change for the better, not just for women, but for everyone,” Conseil said. “It’s the only program in the nation with two females as the heads of the program, and that was my inspiration. I think it’s an important step here for our men to see women in leadership roles, because it can have a positive impact on them later in their careers, too.”
That influence has helped lead an influx of women into the program. In 2020, FGCU had 11 new women enroll, and this past year it added six more.
“Prior to that, getting one or two women a year was a win,” McKenna said. “Now we expect four to six every year. Our students are accepting of an inclusive culture and it’s not foreign to them to have women be role models and leaders. We all want to achieve the same things.”
To learn more about PGA Golf Management University Programs and a path to PGA Membership, click here.