Leaning on Each Other: How Black PGA Members are Building Support Networks
By Anthony Witrado
Nofiu Akano, Todd Daniel and Norman Blanco.
Todd Daniel grew up with a deep support system. People who gave him advice and guided him through his childhood and early adult years.
As a biracial young man growing up in California’s Bay Area, he had a close family, with three older brothers and a younger sister. His family valued education, with a father, mother and brother who all attended Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C. Daniel chose Morehouse College, an HBCU in Atlanta. Later, he’d meet his wife, Mia, who also went to Howard, and their daughter, Marbella, is currently a senior there.
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Daniel was fortunate to have people he trusted, and who understood many of his challenges as a person of color.
Since his teen years, Daniel enjoyed golf, and after Morehouse, he chased a dream of playing professionally. In 1995, Daniel earned his PGA of America Membership, which has helped him work as a PGA Professional on both coasts.
Daniel loved his work, but something important – something critical to helping his career development and education as a PGA Member – was missing. The support system Daniel leaned on growing up did not exist in golf the way it did in his personal life, with people who looked like him or had gone through similar experiences advising him.
As a PGA Member for more than 25 years, Daniel is helping change that for a new generation of PGA Professionals and Members of color. And so are many others who understand the need.
Need for Support
“It would have been great to have a mentor to help me, but I didn’t have that. So I’m trying to do that for others, because there needs to be a support system for everyone,” Daniel said. “I didn’t have that person who I could just pick up the phone and talk to, or who could make a call on my behalf. It’s important for me to be that person for others.”
Over the years, Daniel had several white colleagues who helped his journey. Many are still friends today. But they couldn’t ever fully understand some of Daniel’s obstacles or frustrations, or even his triumphs.
For that, he needed fellow PGA Members and other golf industry professionals who had shared experiences, the ones he’d gone through as a Black man. He is not alone in that need. Understanding that, Daniel has reached out to younger African American PGA Professionals to be that person.
“I met Todd when I moved to California, but before that, there really wasn’t anyone,” said Norman Blanco, 30, an Assistant Professional at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. “We get together every few months to talk, or just talk on the phone. It’s been helpful, and it’s super important to have that. It gives you the motivation to keep going. It’s everything.”
Creating Social & Professional Networks
Daniel also forged a similar relationship with Nofiu Akano, 39, a PGA Professional and golf instructor at Ridgemark Golf Club & Resort in Hollister, California. And nationwide, other African American PGA Members have developed their own similar relationships.
Demarkis Cooper, 25, is a PGA Professional in Washington, D.C., and is becoming an influential Member when it comes to making golf more accessible and welcoming to people of color. He considers PGA Master Professional Anthony Stepney a close friend and mentor.
“My connection with him has been invaluable. Learning from those who came ahead of you and lived through experiences that are still ahead of you is extremely helpful,” said Cooper, who along with Stepney is part of the PGA LEAD leadership development program. “Anthony has seen a lot in his time in the PGA. Our conversations give me the foresight for what to expect in my career. This is the biggest value that some of those senior members in the PGA have to offer to those coming up.”
Cooper recognizes not all Black PGA Members have people like Daniel or Stepney to lean on, making it more important for those who’ve experienced that help to pay it forward.
Like PGA Member Ira Molayo, the Director of Golf at Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas. PGA Member Leonard Jones gave Molayo his first job in golf, leading Molayo to earn his PGA Membership in 2007.
That relationship with Jones started the ball rolling for Molayo to found the I Am A Golfer Foundation, where he mentors others and helps diversify the golf industry workforce through internships and scholarships.
Jones and Molayo also inspired fellow Texan Maulana Dotch, 41, to become a PGA Member in 2010, making her the second Black female to ever achieve Membership. Last year she became the first Black female PGA Member to serve as a general manager of a golf facility.
Leaving a Lasting Impact
These relationships are critical in the golf industry. Their value is immeasurable, and they are especially important for PGA Members, as fewer than 1% of the more than 28,000 Members are Black. The PGA of America is working to improve that through industry collaborations like Make Golf Your Thing and other initiatives to help diversify PGA Membership and the golf workforce.
The deeper these professional and personal networks become, the more impact they can have on Black golf communities across America. These are the people who inspire others to play the game, who show the next generations that golf can be for them and who mentor and guide younger people in the industry once they arrive.
“I love being a PGA Member. I love giving back. I love the opportunity to tell my story and introduce golf to people,” Molayo said. “I feel like I’m spreading a gift almost. I try to do it in as many ways as I can, and being a PGA Member has really empowered that.”
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a PGA Member, visit pga.org/membership.