By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
On May 10, 2021, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the PGA TOUR entered a historic partnership. The union promised to reflect the commitment between the two organizations, both sharing the objective of amplifying the game of golf in the African American community in a way that inspires more interest, participation, and engagement.
That objective included promoting jobs, careers, and economic opportunities in the golf industry at large – options many in communities of color either are unaware of or mistakenly might believe are unachievable.
Long before the agreement with the Black Press of America, the PGA TOUR had already displayed great strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Through programs like First Tee, the APGA Tour, and a standing commitment to historically Black colleges and universities, the PGA TOUR has opened its doors and arms to Black America like never before.
On the eve of the anniversary of the agreement between the PGA TOUR and the Black Press of America, Commissioner Jay Monahan invited NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and NNPA staff to THE PLAYERS Championship in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
The get together took place inside the hallowed halls of TPC Sawgrass’ stately Mediterranean-style Clubhouse, where Monahan also spoke with NNPA Newswire about the progress made before and since the partnership.
“We take enormous pride in the fact that we have a partnership,” the Commissioner remarked.
“We’ve opened ourselves up to try and be as transparent about where we are and where we’re going. As a result, we can have a conversation with [NNPA] and a conversation that’s happening regularly.”
The NNPA and PGA TOUR officials maintain a bi-weekly video conference discussing various ways to ensure African Americans and other communities of color are aware of the wide-ranging opportunities in golf.
“It didn’t exist before,” Monahan stated of the partnership. “Today, it’s one of the priorities of our organization, and we’re grateful for that, and we’re going to keep getting stronger and stronger together.”
While Monahan and all PGA TOUR officials refused to rest on their laurels and seek to strengthen and expand already extensive commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the golfing organization’s record continues an impressive path.
In January, The PGA TOUR received 95/100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.
The impressive score marked the first time a major sports organization earned inclusion.
The Human Rights Campaign started 20 years ago, and its corporate equality index acts as a benchmark for American-based businesses.
Campaign officials noted that the PGA TOUR, in conjunction with the other major bodies of golf, “is committed to making the sport more diverse, equitable, and inclusive through collective action.”
Across the industry, there’s a specific focus on education and skill development, player development, marketing and communications, talent acquisition, human resources, and procurement,” Campaign officials noted.
They noted that, like many things, that process starts from the inside out. “I’m never going to be pleased [when it comes to diversity],” Monahan insisted.
Monahan asserted that all of golf’s industry partners are making sure that underserved individuals are not only playing 18-holes but can participate at Top Golf, driving ranges, or simply watch games. “There are so many ways to tap into the game of golf. To me, that’s what we’re trying to do. When we do that, people are going to find their way to make [golf] part of their lives,” he said.
Monahan, who earned a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, related a story about his and his father’s love for the game. “My dad is 78 years old and has played golf his whole life,” Monahan remarked. “My brother and nephew came down, and we played 36 holes on a Saturday. I’m exhausted,” he exclaimed.
“So we came off the last hole at about 5:30 p.m., and while going to the car, I said, ‘dad, do you want to come over for dinner tonight?’ He said, ‘no, I’m going to Top Golf. After 36 holes, that’s taking it to another level.”
Monahan foresees that level in young professionals like Joseph Bramlett and youth of color.
It’s why the relationships with NNPA and the pledge to HBCUs are so critical.
“We think it’s a start of making a material difference,” Monahan related. “But that’s on the competitive side. When you think of the game of golf, the industry of golf, and the enterprise of golf, there are so many opportunities, and the PGA TOUR and the industry has a commitment to make certain that we make those opportunities available and articulate them.”
Monahan credits former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem for having the vision to form First Tee in 1997.
“A lot of people think First Tee is all about developing golfers, and that’s not what it’s about,” Monahan stated. “It’s about using values of the game and being able to teach young people life skills and life lessons in a structured way.”
Monahan quoted the National Golf Foundation, which noted the three fastest-growing segments from a participation standpoint are junior golfers, women, and non-Caucasians.
“I think these efforts go back several years, and I think the sport had an opportunity to have people look at it because of COVID,” he said. “We came back to play before the other sports, and people saw the natural beauty of these golf courses, and it became an outlet for people’s physical well-being and their mental well-being. More people started playing golf, and the sport was talked about as being more welcoming and inclusive. We’re starting to address that, and I think it’s a big part of the energy and growth.”
Following a more than 30-minute meeting with the NNPA at TPC Sawgrass, Monahan provided a message to the Black Press and African Americans. “We’re going to – through the partnership – continue to express our commitment and talk about all the ways to get involved in the game of golf,” he promised. “Through our actions, we are going to prove that we are walking the walk and that everything we’re saying, we’re doing. The beauty of what you’re doing at NNPA is giving us an opportunity to share this great game with so many people.”
Monahan concluded by demanding he and the PGA TOUR are held accountable. Dr. Chavis similarly pledged to keep the NNPA, its members, readers, and viewers engaged in golf. “The partnership between NNPA and the PGA Tour continues to produce tangible results for African Americans and other communities of color,” Dr. Chavis added. “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are key values for the PGA Tour under the transformative and effective leadership of PGA Commissioner Joseph William ‘Jay’ Monahan IV. My meeting with Commissioner Monahan reinforced and reaffirmed our mutual plans to strengthen this important national partnership.”