Jasmin Cunningham’s long-term goal is a C-suite position that’s focused on diversity and inclusion at a large golf company. The 24-year-old got started in golf at a First Tee program in Atlanta at age 10 and played collegiately at Maryland Eastern Shore while taking part in the Professional Golf Management Program.
Last October, Cunningham was hired as an associate account representative at Acushnet Company, where she sits on the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging council and is one of the leads of the diversity program for PGA professionals associated with the Titleist brand.
Cunningham became the eighth Black woman to obtain PGA membership, something she’s proud of but also sad about considering that Renee Powell became the first Black woman member in 1996, the year Cunningham was born. It’s a big reason why she wants to “be in the room where people ultimately make decisions.”
Cunningham wants to help create change.
There are 28,000 PGA professionals who work in the $84 billion golf industry. Some jobs are top of mind for most folks: teaching and coaching, golf operations and executive jobs like a club’s general manager.
But others, like Dave Barton’s position as director of education and editor of Golf Business Magazine for the National Golf Course’s Owners Association, represent some of the non-traditional jobs that make up the more than 2 million the industry has to offer.
Barton, a retired Naval officer and helicopter pilot, certainly didn’t foresee his current role when he transitioned into the golf industry at age 45. He started out as an assistant pro, becoming a PGA member in 2008, and eventually moved on to a consultant role for Raspberry Golf Management. Until recently, Barton also had part ownership in the Virginia Golf Center in Cliffton.
In his current job with the NGCOA, Barton helps to coordinate webinars and podcasts as well as weekly and bi-monthly digital products.
“One of the primary things we do,” said Barton, “is provide education and information that we feel is valuable to our owners and operators.”
If professional golf didn’t work out, Ryan Young pictured a career in golf course design. When Chambers Bay began hiring to get ready for the 2015 U.S. Open, Young jumped at the chance to work on the turf crew.
After a Jordan Spieth triumph, however, Young’s efforts shifted to teaching and growing the game. By year’s end, he’d presented a business plan to create an academy at the renowned public course on Puget Sound and got the green light.
In 2020, the Chambers Bay Academy hosted 27 programs with over 2,200 participants. Young, the director of instruction at Chambers, took the PGA HOPE program virtual, providing adaptive golf classes for roughly 140 veterans from his living room using Zoom.
“That was one that really hit home with me,” said Young.
Anna Newell could feel the nerves pumping as the start of the LPGA’s Pelican Women’s Championship neared last November. And then it hit her: She wasn’t playing anymore. She was spectating.
Newell, an assistant pro at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida, realized early on in her play-for-pay days that living out of a suitcase didn’t suit her. She stumbled upon a post for an outside services job at Pelican online and was promoted to assistant pro in December of 2019. Nearly one year later, the renovated club hosted an LPGA event and Newell, 24, got to see tournament golf from a whole new perspective.
“It got the juices flowing again,” she said.
Newell found a way to combine her deep love of golf with a job that suits her personality in ways she could never have dreamed as a college player at Tennessee. She’s one of several former collegiate players on staff at Pelican who work to make sure the women at the club feel as comfortable and at home as the men.
“I don’t have a set plan for myself,” said Newell. “I just know that what I do right now, I love.”
Lacy Erickson majored in economics at Oregon but wasn’t sure if a traditional 9-to-5 job would fit her personality. She worked in the pro shop at Eugene Country Club while playing on the women’s golf team and was encouraged by several of the assistants there to pursue a full-time career in the industry.
From Eugene she moved to Las Vegas to finish the PGA program and then on to Reno, ultimately coming back to Oregon for a job as an assistant pro at Portland Golf Club.
She’d been there for more than a decade, loving every minute of it. As Erickson searched for a head professional post, time after time well-meaning people would tell her she might need to take a step backwards in pay or move to a location she wasn’t interested in order to move forward in her career.
But Erickson, 40, didn’t believe them.
Earlier this year, she applied for the head professional job at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Witch Hollow Couse in Portland, Oregon. The general manager was so impressed with Erickson’s interview and long-term business plan, however, that he instead hired her to be the club’s new director of golf.
“The whole process of everything falling into place as it should be,” said Erickson, “has been overwhelming for me.”
Like so many in golf, it’s a journey of the heart that’s far from complete.