Letter from Suzy Whaley:
I’m sending this letter to all PGA Members today to share my thoughts and feelings with you and to forward Seth’s powerful personal message to PGA staff.
My dream of 2020 is certainly much different than its current reality. It was filled with thoughts of membership achievements, exciting championships, deferred compensation, healthcare solutions, and PGA leaders working together to grow the game throughout the country. While the concept of a pandemic was something to fear, it was to be feared by others. As I watched the wave of illness work its way to our shores, however, it was obvious that none of us were safe. It became a wake-up call to shift our priorities to the immediate needs of our members and a resetting of our business model to ensure member wellness and a sustainable brand far into the future beyond COVID-19. But while we grappled with the loss of jobs, loss of our societal norms, loss of our workplace environments and loss of our human connections, we knew that we were working toward getting all to the other side. We believed strongly in our ability to help.
After the events of last week, I realize COVID-19 is only one of the unrelenting challenges of 2020. Instead of fighting against an unseen enemy, we were awakened to another, equally unjust enemy that we all clearly see. Racism must be defeated in a fight we can no longer ignore.
It is my belief that humanity stems from kindness, faith, and hope. But as I watch the continued injustice against African Americans in our communities, the mass destruction and hopelessness, the frustration and the call for action in cities nationwide to stand for what is just and humane, I understand the power we have as a game and as a group of individuals that will no longer tolerate the racism and bigotry that lives today and has lived in our past. Our spaces can be used for good, to invite and welcome people from all walks of life and to rise up and say no more. Enough is enough.
Together, each one of us has the power to effect change and build an industry that is accepting, compassionate, and proud to stand together. Stand with us in the possibility and the hope that we cannot ignore our lack of inclusion. Stand with us and let’s all take the necessary steps to change it. Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas through email at Inclusion@pgahq.com.
Letter from Seth Waugh:
Dear PGA Team,
Following up on our Team Connect from yesterday afternoon, this last week has been intensely disturbing on so many levels. We are now facing two awful diseases- one a pandemic that threatens lives and another that threatens the soul of our country.
Staying silent on this existential question at this important moment is simply unacceptable and was never an option for us as an Association. The initial hideous act has been followed by a confusing and hugely troubling mix of totally warranted peaceful protest intermixed with disturbing images of violence. This has lit a flame of outrage that has been smoldering for generations. A feeling of division and anger and pain and sadly we have been shown that hate still lives on in our country. Our country was literally conceived for and built upon the concept of equality. Yet 250 years into the experiment, we have yet to achieve it.
I have lived not a life of privilege, but a privileged life. My parents were both teachers. The privilege was that we were never denied anything truly essential: healthy food, a warm bed, safety, love or being made to feel worthwhile. Privilege was access to and emphasis on a great and welcoming education. Privilege was that my parents were open, thoughtful, decent people who truly believed and lived equality. No one was ever treated differently because of race or religion or gender. Ever.
People were people. I didn’t have to learn that, it just was. I grew up “color blind,” which I later learned was sadly much more the exception than the rule. I used to think that was the answer, that eventually the world would get there and that was the right and final answer to our societal issues. I was wrong. Today I understand that it’s not enough or even okay to be blind. Rather we all need to see and embrace color, be totally aware of it, totally empathetic and totally willing to intentionally do something about racism.
I honestly didn’t realize that my greatest privilege was simply to be born white and male. That single fact, that I had absolutely nothing to do with, was somehow my single biggest advantage in life. How wrong is that? While I can’t ever truly understand what it’s like to grow up and live as a person of color in our America, I can listen, and can understand that it’s hard, really hard, stupidly hard, unfairly hard. I’ve been told that as a white male my voice, while not built from relevant life experience, may perhaps resonate in this moment because it carries the weight of a platform and possible change.
So, what are we going to do about it? I have learned in life that you sometimes have to hit rock bottom before you can rise off the floor. I am hopeful that this might be that moment. Of course, I was hopeful that the Rodney King riots might have been that moment, but it turned out to be a false hope. I thought it would happen organically, but it doesn’t always work that way.
We will need to be intentional in this moment. The outrage and disgust feel so universal this time, but we still need to take real action to make sure this makes us better, not worse. I do believe that we will get through this, that people are inherently good, that police kneeling with protesters and a surviving brother calling for peaceful demonstrations as what his late brother would want will ultimately carry the day.
But that’s not the end. Rather it should be the beginning of the end. First, creating a better understanding of what African Americans have faced their whole lives and what we can do in our time to reverse the awful cycle of economic and social oppression that has lasted for far too long. Our vehicle, our podium is just a simple game. But a beautiful game. What can we do to make it more welcoming? How can we make it a platform for healing, for connection, for good? How do we use our microphone to stand out from the many voices and have a REAL impact, a few lives at a time? That’s the discussion we need to have and the challenge we need to embrace. I have full faith that science will eventually solve the pandemic, but we as human beings need to solve for this other, more fundamental threat.
For starters, we are opening a formal line of communication for your recommendations on how we, as an industry, can come together in ways that go beyond written statements and promises to be better. What actionable outcomes should we consider as an Association that will drive substantial change in our industry? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas through email at Inclusion@pgahq.com.
We recognize that golf can’t cure all of society’s challenges. But because of our nearly 29,000 PGA Golf Professionals, I believe we are positioned to lead the conversation and take action on how golf can help. We are certainly not proud of every chapter in golf’s imperfect past, including our own failings, but we can certainly be proud of the future we can build together if we become a committed part of the solution. PGA WORKS and PGA LEAD are intentional steps we have taken to make a difference in our sport. But now we must do more and reach higher.
I’m sure we are all tired of fighting off tears, I know that I am. Now let’s do something about it. I hope that we can all do it together with grace, gratitude and grit. God bless us all.
All the best,