Over 20 Diverse PGA Professionals Showcase Careers in Golf for Student-Athletes at PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship
By Jesse Dodson
PGA Members Mackenzie Mack (middle) and Kendall Murphy (right) are both PGA WORKS Ambassadors.
A special week is wrapping up in Birmingham, Alabama, as over 200 collegiate golfers and 29 teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and other minority-serving institutions from across the country graced the grounds of Shoal Creek Club and Bent Brook Golf Course to compete in the 2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship presented by Chase Sapphire May 8-10.
The championship is known as the most culturally significant championship in collegiate golf. The beauty behind it all, this is much more than your typical 54-hole collegiate championship. This event is about culture, community and introducing a career these college athletes will love for the rest of their lives.
To help these young athletes make connections with golf industry experts, over 20 diverse PGA Professionals from around the country have volunteered as PGA WORKS Ambassadors and will be alongside the athletes and teams as they experience Birmingham during tournament week.
“A big part of our PGA WORKS Ambassador’s role is to mentor and connect with the teams, student athletes and coaches,” said PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship Director Scooter Clark, PGA. “They will be able to share their own personal experiences as a diverse PGA Member. They can also talk about a pathway to PGA Membership, and help these athletes figure out what opportunities exist for them within the industry.”
Maulana Dotch, PGA, General Manager of Hermann Park Golf Course in Houston, is among the list of Ambassadors, and rightly so.
She is not only a past champion of the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship while attending Bethune-Cookman University—who won as a team all four years Dotch competed—but she also won as an individual her senior year in 2002.
However, perhaps more importantly, Dotch is the first Black woman PGA Member to serve as a General Manager of a golf facility. Her experience of becoming a PGA Professional as a minority is inspiring enough, but as someone who has excelled in her career, she becomes an invaluable connection for the Texas Southern University team’s athletes to rely on for guidance and support.
“When the PGA started looking for volunteers for the event, I was one of the first to raise my hand,” said Dotch. “It holds a special place for me because of the history of the tournament.
“When I came through the program into the tournament, I didn't see PGA Members like me. To have PGA Members here that look like most of the players, you know, that's important for them to see and recognize, ‘Oh, this is something I can do. I can be a PGA Member, I can manage a golf course.’”
Gerry Hammond, PGA, Director of Instruction and Owner of The Golf Depot at Central Park in Gahanna, Ohio, is the Ambassador for the Florida A&M University and Alabama State teams. He’s a past participant of the championship and loves how many Ambassadors are here for the event.
“I was once here, just to see it come from where it was then to where it is now, is amazing,” Hammond says. “It shows the efforts of everyone pulling this together and offering this opportunity to so many kids. What better time than now to get the best of the best together, not only to play golf but for networking?
“From a career standpoint, everybody here loves the game. If this game can be in the fabric of their daily life as a career, I think it’s one of the best places to be. I’ve been a PGA Professional for 27 years now, and I wouldn't change it.”
Before the first tee shot was even hit, the PGA WORKS Ambassadors were in the mix with 80 local kids coming to Shoal Creek for a Youth Day on May 6, to learn the fundamentals of the game from PGA Professionals.
Afterwards, they joined their teams on a “Birmingham Experience” guided tour, visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, the first Black church in Birmingham. The church was tragically bombed in 1963, due to an act of racism, and then heroically rebuilt in 1964, with the help of generous donations from around the world. The tour shed a light on the significant civil rights developments the city of Birmingham has experienced.
The Ambassadors also accompanied their teams to the PGA WORKS Beyond the Green career exploration event the day before the tournament began. It’s here where panels are held by golf industry experts and local community leaders to help provide knowledge and networking opportunities for the athletes and local college and high school students.
Derek Gutierrez, PGA General Manager of Santa Ana Golf Club Inc. and a member of the PGA Board of Directors, serves as PGA WORKS Committee Co-Chair, but is also taking the time to be a PGA WORKS Ambassador to the Western New Mexico University team while at the event.
“First and foremost, I hope all these student athletes have a positive and memorable experience, they will remember it always,” said Gutierrez. “It is my goal to engage with as many athletes as I can, and help them realize the endless opportunities that exist in our industry. The PGA of America has worked diligently to make our game and profession welcoming to everyone, and this year’s Beyond the Green will bring more awareness of those opportunities.”
PGA and LPGA Member Sherri Pla, Program Director for her namesake Sherri Pla Junior Golf Academy, understands the importance of having a mentor. Someone who you can lean on for advice and guidance. She will serve as the Ambassador for Prairie View University during the week.
“If I can give them something they can take back home, something that will help them grow, help them reach goals, help them learn something they can use going forward, I think that’s all we can ask,” said Pla, a Florida Atlantic University Hall of Fame Member. “You never know what those moments are going to be, when you can impact someone’s life in a positive manner.”
Champions will be crowned today at the 2023 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship — that’s for certain. But if a career is born because of a relationship made or a panel discussion visited; that’s the real win.
2023 PGA WORKS Ambassadors
Richard Brown, PGA PGA of America Education Faculty - Frisco, Texas
Jeff Dunovant, PGA John A. White Golf Course Director of Golf - Atlanta, Georgia
Derek Gutierrez, PGA Santa Ana Golf Club Inc. General Manager - Santa Ana Pueblo, NM
Brandon Howard, PGA Belmont Golf Course - Richmond, Virginia
Mackenzie Mack, PGA Callaway Golf DE&I Director - San Marcos, California
Clay Myers, PGA The Park West Palm Beach Head Professional - West Palm Beach, Florida
Henry Pointer, PGA First Tee East Baton Rouge Instructor - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Henry Stetina, PGA New Mexico State University PGM Program Coordinator - Las Cruces, New Mexico