Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was a prime focus during the 2021 National Golf Day event held virtually on May 10.
We Are Golf, a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners, usually hosts the event in Washington, D.C., with industry leaders, members of Congress, the Executive branch, and federal agencies.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s event occurred virtually.
The biggest announcement came during the first hour when Neera Shetty, the senior vice president and deputy general counsel at the PGA Tour, announced that the organization is entering a relationship with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association that represents the Black Press of America.
“The Tour has entered into a relationship with the NNPA, which has an outreach to over 230 publications that reach Black and African American audiences, and we are planning to leverage that,” Shetty said.
“I think that what we’re seeing now, which is different, is just that everybody is coming together and really putting some passion and thought into how we can work collaboratively to try to overcome some of the past issues and really move forward in this area.”
While National Golf Day celebrates the sport’s more than $84.1 billion annual charitable impact and its environmental and fitness benefits, the event kicked off with a panel discussion on ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.’
“We are not that far removed from when there was a Caucasian-only clause in the PGA bylaws,” Shetty said, who participated on a panel that included Sandy Cross, the ‘chief people officer’ at the PGA of America, and Laura Diaz, the director of ‘foundation operations’ with the LPGA.
Shetty noted the Caucasian-only clause existed between 1939 and 1961, and it affected generations of businesses.
“Trying to overcome some of that historical exclusion is what we have to be very intentional about,” Shetty said.
“We need to make sure that we are not only letting people know from all different backgrounds that they are not only invited, but they are welcome and that we are going to provide that equitable means so that they can participate in golf.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, socio-economic status, and religion, Diaz said.
“Equity is fair treatment, access, and opportunity for advancement and recognizing there are barriers but working to overcome them,” she said. “Inclusion is about creating that environment because you want to make sure that individuals and groups not only feel welcome and supported, but that they belong.”
Cross said it’s critical golf embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We have to understand that what and the why before we collectively, as an industry, can move to the how,” Cross said. “How do we operationalize diversity and inclusion?”
The PGA Tour has worked diligently over the years to diversify the sport on all levels.
The PGA Tour currently has a 10-year and $100 million commitment to support racial equity and inclusion.
It has highlighted through video and social media individuals like Cameron Champ, one of just a handful of Black pro golfers.
In December, the PGA Tour made a $500,000 donation to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including $100,000 to Prairie View A&M’s men’s and women’s golf teams.
The PGA Tour made the Prairie View A&M donation in the name of Champ’s grandfather, Mack, who wanted to attend Prairie View A&M but went into the military instead.
The PGA Tour also made $100,000 donations to Delaware State’s women’s golf team, Tennessee State’s men’s and women’s teams, Wilberforce University’s men’s and women’s teams, and the Bowie State Golf Classic, an annual fundraiser for the school’s athletic department.
Augusta National also announced two Lee Elder scholarships for the men’s and women’s teams at Paine College, an HBCU in Augusta, Georgia.
“We know we have a lot of work that we are planning to do and will do to make sure that we address [diversity, equity, and inclusion] as an industry,” Shetty said.