Rachel chats with Latin Biz Today’s Tina Trevino about one of the PGA of America’s diversity and inclusion programs called PGA WORKS.
Rachel Melendez Mabee is the PGA WORKS Program Specialist for PGA REACH. Mabee is responsible for oversight and overall execution of PGA REACH’s inclusion and diversity program, PGA WORKS. The program’s mission is to establish a deep bench of diverse talent prepared to ascend to key employment industries in the game and the business of golf.
“PGA WORKS is a strategic workforce diversification initiative under PGA REACH, which is the foundation of the PGA of America,” says Melendez Mabee, the PGA WORKS program specialist. “It’s really an intentional effort for us to diversify our workforce and inspire and engage people from all backgrounds to learn about careers and opportunities within the golf industry. We want to make sure that we have adequate representation from all backgrounds, from all dimensions of diversity, in our sport and in our workforce.”
Key highlights of Rachel and Tina video interview:
I may not be a golfer, but I am excited to speak to Rachel Mabee, Program WORKS Specialist for PGA. I’m curious to find out how an Afro-Latina becomes a leader and advocate for bringing diversity and inclusivity into the golf industry and how her upbringing shaped her role in being part of the new PGA WORKS initiative which is doing just that, making the golf sport and workforce look more like the true face of America.
Rachel shares that she was born and raised in Puerto Rico and her mother says she pretty much came out of the womb swinging a golf club. She was taught by her father at a very young age how to golf and it was truly a special bond that she shared with him. He was her inspiration, her caddy and her only teacher throughout her junior career and collegiate career until she got a golf coach.
She initially thought that golf would just be a hobby, but she had many friends in her golf circle and she was making new friends along the way as well. She realized she was meeting interesting people on the golf course and was being presented with opportunities that she would never have been exposed to unless she was in that environment and she recognized it could be a part of her business strategy.
Rachel says that having learned the sport in Puerto Rico, she was surrounded by others similar to herself. It wasn’t until she moved to the southern part of the United States, to attend the University of Georgia and continue to golf that she had a real eye opener moment, recognizing that she was a minority in the sport.
Her story shaped where she is today and the role she plays as an advocate for the sport. She initially worked on the PGA Championships side of things starting in 2011 and then was eventually called on to be a part of the new initiative, PGA WORKS when it started in 2017. When the opportunity came up, her boss knew this would be a natural fit for Rachel with her background and story.
The fundamental idea of the program is to bring a true reflection of what America looks like into the golf industry. Rachel says that the PGA recognizes that the industry is currently a very homogenized business. The industry is an $84 billion dollar industry, The PGA membership is about 93% caucasian. The data that the PGA has collected shows that the golf community is steeped in traditional stereotypes. Words that come to mind to many people when the word golf is mentioned include, elitist, white, male, and exclusive.
The PGA WORKS program is trying to break the “I don’t see it, so I can’t be it” mentality by working hard against these stereotypes. They want to showcase that there are people of color, women, and minorities in the sport and the business of golf. She is happy to be a leader in this space where they are changing the messaging. It’s a tough task and the end goal is to truly make big changes, but Rachel says they have to feel good about the “micro moments” of inclusion that are just as important and continue to create a ripple effect that will re-shape the business of golf.
Rachel says that “the power of the invitation” is a catch phrase that they use and it started with her mentor telling her how important it is to invite people outside of the vortex of sameness. They needed to take themselves out of their comfort zone. Diversity and inclusion are both the goals of that invitation.
The PGA Works has 4 key platforms that are designed to give minorities a seat at the table and bring the whole concept to life.
1. One year long paid fellowship programs are offered to students to immerse themselves in all aspects of golf and the business of golf.
From IT, to chemistry, communication, sports marketing, and business, students get a taste of what a career in the golf industry can look like. The program engages students and show them that there is a whole business built around golf and that career opportunities do exist for students who are interested in the sport.
2. PGA WORKS Scholarships are granted to students pursuing a PGA Golf Management University Program which is basically a golf major. It inspires those students who may have thought the industry was inaccessible to them or wasn’t something of interest to them. They’ll be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in a golf industry compatible major.
3. Beyond the Green is a career exploration opportunity held at the PGA Championship.
High school students and college bound students are invited to attend and get an inside look at the industry. They are able to be a part of panel discussions, speed networking, and see the inner workings of the championship. It gives them a taste of the business to engage and inspire them. The goal is to debunk the myth that this is not for you.
4. PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship and Career Expo
This is an event that was created to include historically black colleges, minority serving institutions, and hispanic institutions with golf teams & individuals that never really had a home on the championship circuit. PGA of America takes pride in giving these talented, yet unrecognized golfers a seat at the table. It is an event that aligns with the ideals of diversity and inclusion and allows the PGA to connect with hundreds of student athletes from diverse backgrounds who will continue to play golf and seek careers in the industry.
The event is held in May and includes a career expo that invites students into the industry. The event is designed to cultivate the next generation of talent turning their passion for golf into a career and creating leaders. The event showcases a diverse pool of candidates to leading industry employers right there on-sight for employment. There are 200 participants ready to be chosen for entry level positions, PGA positions and fellowships.
Rachel explains that the PGA WORKS program works hard at the grass roots level going where the audiences are and partnering with businesses, institutions, and colleges to help build relationships that extend the inclusivity and diversity conversation. The end goal is to evolve the demographic composition of the golf industry through these programs.
The PGA WORKS is engaging with people and community through their social media outlets to show the world that they are creating a golf industry and workforce that more closely mirrors America – “if you can see it, you can be it”. Follow them on Instagram at @pgaworks and and go to PGAREACH.org/PGAWORKS to see the strides they are making. You can also learn more about their scholarship program at learnmore.scholarsapply.org/pgaworks/
They are also looking forward to their 34th PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship which will be held between May 8 – 10, 2020 at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
I admire Rachel’s energy and her desire to make the world of golf attainable to everyone. She may even have convinced me to take it up! Although she laughs as she says that she has given me fair warning that if I decide to try it, it may take over my life. She has brought the “power of the invitation” and that’s what personifies diversity and inclusion.