Taking Action to Welcome the LGBTQ+ Community Into the Golf Industry
By Anthony Witrado
The vision has evolved in recent years, through natural progressions and conscious efforts alike.
Understanding the importance of greater inclusion and diversity within golf, the PGA of America has taken action to be a more welcoming destination for the LGBTQ+ community. From partnering in sustainable activities and engagements to spearheading groundbreaking gestures, the PGA is working to engage the historically unengaged group beyond Pride Month, which runs throughout June and provides a chance to create better awareness for the underserved community.
Recent reports peg the LGBTQ+ market’s global spending power at nearly $4 trillion, and in the United States, Forbes has that number at more than $900 billion.
The PGA’s action is making a difference for PGA Professionals and the golf industry as a whole. This was noted throughout the first-ever Pride Day virtual panel -- a discussion on ways to advance LBGTQ+ inclusion in the sport, workforce and golf industry -- last summer during PGA Championship Week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and it’s continued through the PGA’s 2021 Championships.
“It really means so much to have the PGA’s support over the last few years,” said Greg Fitzgerald, an openly gay PGA Professional in the Northern California Section who started the Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park in 2019. “Personally, it’s benefitted my life in a positive way … because I’ve finally been able to be myself. I’ve never felt more comfortable at work and on the golf course than over the past few years, and it’s because of the PGA’s new vision.”
Some of the actions haven’t been over the top, but they have been symbolic and meaningful for golf and the LGBTQ+ community. During Pride Day at last year’s Championship and in addition to a Pride Panel, Harding Park’s entryways were lined with Pride flags, and Pride pins were proudly worn by some players and PGA employees alike. All of it was part of the “Pride at the PGA” campaign, a joint venture with San Francisco Pride to give the LGBTQ+ community a platform for visibility and understanding, so that all felt welcome to join in the game, the workforce and the industry’s supply chain.
The flags turned into a photo engagement opportunity during the week, and the pins were swiped up in a hurry.
“In the past, I never would’ve thought I’d see a Pride logo and a PGA of America logo side by side,” Fitzgerald said, “but now that I have, I think it means that the future of the industry from an inclusion standpoint is bright.”
And it’s also getting brighter in part because of PGA LEAD. PGA LEAD is a leadership development program designed to help PGA Members from a variety of backgrounds, identities, and abilities ascend to volunteer leadership positions within the PGA’s governance structure. Additionally, the PGA’s staff includes multiple people who are openly part of the LGBTQ+ community and are proud to be part of the PGA team in a variety of areas.
An inclusive and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ business and social communities.
During the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, the PGA worked with the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC) to identify business and community engagement opportunities that could be sustained beyond the Championship. Prior to the event, LGBTQ+-owned businesses were featured at the Diverse Business Supplier Opportunity Exchange, so they could vie to be part of the Championship’s operations.
In 2019, the PGA also partnered with Athlete Ally, an organization focused on ending rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality. The PGA and Athlete Ally delivered education to PGA employees to advance education, awareness and greater understanding about LGBTQ+ inclusion.
The inclusion of small, local and diverse-owned businesses can drive creativity and inspire innovation. That’s why during last month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, PGA VendorMatch and PGA JobMatch programs showed the PGA’s commitment to including LGBTQ+-owned businesses in bidding opportunities and business operations, facilitated through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) -- the PGA has been a member of the Chamber since 2016 -- and CLGBTCC, among other strategic partnerships. This is continuing through the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta, the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, and future Championship events.
TP Corporate Lodging, Inc., which provides housing services for some of the PGA’s vendors around Championship events, is one business relationship that has developed out of the NGLCC partnership with PGA VendorMatch.
“The PGA actively participates in both the NGLCC Procurement Council and the Corporate Advisory Council,” said Greg Shinbur, Vice President of Corporate Relations for the NGLCC. “These councils have allowed us to engage in discussions on LGBT-inclusive supplier diversity, supplier trends and promoting new opportunities among colleagues across all industry sectors.
“The PGA is helping NGLCC advance the notion, in professional sports and across every industry, that an economy that welcomes everyone benefits everyone. When LGBT people succeed at work, at home, and in the marketplace we all do better.”