Sun Country PGA Section Board Member Vernon Bane is a Hispanic PGA Professional who especially likes to teach the game of golf to kids. Bane grew up in a military household, which introduced him to all different dimensions of diversity, as he was stationed across the world with his father. Originally an art major, a calling to become a PGA Professional swayed Bane to attend New Mexico State University’s Professional Golf Management program to help grow the game of golf through his journey to PGA Membership.
A Professional at Sonoma Ranch Golf Course in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bane serves as a role model for young Latinx community members to become leaders in the PGA of America. His passion to be a leader in his Section and lead the next generation of golf industry employees stems from the PGA LEAD Program. PGA LEAD is the PGA of America’s leadership development program designed to identify, mentor and progress PGA Professionals from diverse backgrounds into volunteer leadership roles at the Chapter, Section and National levels of the Association. This two-year program exposes participants to all aspects of volunteer leadership, preparing them to serve within the PGA and on nonprofit boards within their communities. Bane participated in PGA LEAD over a two-year span during 2017 and 2018.
Q: As a Mexican American PGA Member, why is it important to showcase representation from Hispanic communities working in golf?
Hispanics won’t be a minority for long, so it’s crucial that we engage that community as soon as possible in order to be ready to welcome them, once they decide to try golf for the first time. Hispanic kids in some parts of the country aren’t even aware of all the opportunities available in their own community, let alone golf. If they knew there were 29,000 or more PGA Professionals waiting to welcome them with open arms into the industry, we’d see an influx of Hispanic participation in golf. When Hispanics in the El Paso area where I live found out that I was a PGA Professional, they were taken aback, because they weren’t aware that it was a career option before they met me. If I can serve as an example of what they can one day aspire to be, then, that makes being a PGA Member worth it in its own right.
Q: How were you introduced to golf?
My real introduction to golf came when my dad was stationed with the military in Hawaii. I lived within a bike ride to the golf course, and every afternoon after school I rode to the course to practice. I was able to caddie for my father and his friends on the weekends, and if there wasn’t too much happening at the course, I was able to jump onto the nine–hole course on the base.
Q: What made you want to switch from an art career path to PGA Membership?
My father sat me down and showed me the PGA Professional career path, as opposed to an artist’s career path, and the path of the PGA Member seemed to fit what I preferred better. You can have a pretty good career as an artist, but being a PGA Professional opened up a whole new box of possibilities. I knew if I put in the time and effort, and worked hard at becoming a member, I could do it and have a rewarding career impacting lives through golf.
Q: Has your background in art helped at all with your ability to be a better PGA Member?
My specialty in art was metal-smithing. Because of the expenses incurred, if you made mistakes, you really had to plan things out in advance to minimize the chances of those mistakes happening. This helps in golf now, because I’m able to fix a lot of traditional handyman problems around the course and create solutions on the fly, before I start calling for outside help.
Q: Can you explain what PGA LEAD is?
PGA LEAD is the PGA of America’s leadership development program designed to identify, mentor and progress PGA Professionals from diverse backgrounds into volunteer leadership roles at the Chapter, Section and National levels of the Association. It’s a two-year program that exposes participants to all aspects of volunteer leadership, preparing them to serve within the PGA and on nonprofit boards within their communities. Linnet Carty, the leader of the program, actively facilitates networking opportunities within the organization, which were a critical component of furthering my ability to advance into the elected roles of the Association.
Q: What made you interested in PGA LEAD?
I received a call to be a part of the program from a fellow PGA Professional who thought I’d be a fit for it. I wanted to help steer the direction of some general processes in my Section, and knew the only way to get involved was through leadership and governance. When I was accepted into the program, I wanted to be the first person to ask questions and be involved, so that I could make sure that I was invoking change in the Association when I returned home.
Q: What changes did you think PGA LEAD could help you facilitate?
I knew I wanted to do something that was impactful and not just for my namesake, but so that I could put the PGA on the map in a way it hadn’t been before. Was it through the youth space? Or possibly pooling our resources as PGA Professionals together to advance golf in communities we serve? I hoped PGA LEAD would show me that, and it certainly did.
Q: How has PGA LEAD impacted your career and ability to become a leader in the golf industry?
PGA LEAD has allowed to be confident in stepping out and running for the board in my Section. It also gave me the confidence to stand up and ask the tough questions that I know others are thinking of, but may not be as comfortable asking. I saw no one wanting to rock the boat and ask the tough questions, and I got tired of just getting by with not doing anything. PGA LEAD provided an excuse to ask a tough question. I’d ask the questions we were asked in LEAD, and more times than not, I got answers, and it provoked true thought amongst my peers.
Q: Why is it a passion of yours to show kids from diverse backgrounds all of the career opportunities that golf has to offer?
If kids can see that someone who looks like them is working and teaching the game of golf, that will hopefully inspire them to do the same. I had a PGA Professional explain to me as a kid how he teaches golf for a living as a Member of the PGA of America, and it changed my career mindset forever, and showed me another pathway, which ultimately lead me to where I am today. I didn’t think I could be a professional, until I was told it was an option. If I could do that for another kid or two, then I think I’m completing one of my tasks as a PGA Professional. Growing the game of golf through outreach.
For more information on golf professionals impacting lives through golf, follow the PGA of America on LinkedIn.