The Next 70 Years: Changing the Face of Golf

The LPGA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

2020 – the LPGA’s 70th anniversary - was an unforgettable year for the LPGA and for me personally. Of course, there was the COVID-19 pandemic and all the challenges it brought to our world and the LPGA. But I’m referring to the stirring, loud and deeply personal calls for social justice and racial equality in the United States and around the world.

My parents used to tell me that sometimes in life, there are a few opportunities for incredible personal growth, but they’ll require a heightened commitment to closing your mouth and opening your ears.  That’s what 2020 was to me. A chance to learn and most importantly to listen. I listened to our Black players, teachers and team members talk about their experience in life AND at the LPGA.  As much as I wanted to believe that the LPGA was a discrimination-free zone, hearing personal stories made me realize we still have work to do.  We are the leaders in bringing gender diversity to golf, but we can (and should) be so much more than that.

Over my 11 years at the LPGA, people would often ask me about diversity, and I would proudly talk about gender diversity and all we’ve accomplished together to make the game more female. I work for a board that is mostly female, my leadership team is overwhelmingly female, and our staff is about 70% female. Our 13 Founders formed an Association committed to creating opportunities for women and girls in golf that simply didn’t exist in 1950. For 70 years we’ve been completely intentional about being a difference-maker in bringing gender diversity and inclusion to golf.

But diversity isn’t one dimensional. We’ve been focused on women and girls, but it’s more than that. I wasn’t thinking about truly changing the face of golf by being more racially diverse and inclusive.  I knew that we could be better – that I could be better!

Last summer, we created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion taskforce to lead the LPGA’s long-term action plan expanding our awareness, our culture, and our impact on diversity and inclusion. This group is called our “C-Me” team. C stands for Commitment and Me stands for each individual making a personal commitment to listen, learn and be better on this topic. We’ve been listening, understanding, assessing and seeing what we can learn from others in and around the industry and in other sports and businesses as well.

But “C-Me” has another meaning as well. We want women and girls to “see” themselves when they give golf a try, watch the LPGA, participate in LPGA programs, consider golf as a career. This isn’t just about seeing females playing the game – it’s about seeing individuals who look like them in golf.

Our goal, both here at the LPGA and for the industry overall, is for golf to reflect the diversity of the world we live in - making the sport we love more available and inclusive to people without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, physical abilities or appearance. We’re focused on working together - as an industry and as a leading Association - to make our game more welcoming and diverse. Let's face it, golf has a long way to go.

This is a mission that touches all aspects of the LPGA. It’s about increasing the diversity of Tour players but also of our teachers, our Amateur members, our staff and of the young girls who are being introduced to the game.

To truly make a shift in the diversity of this game requires a long-term commitment, with clear goals and outcomes.  We’ve organized our efforts at the LPGA in five areas:

  1. CULTURE: Create a culture and environment where all feel welcomed.
  2. TEAM: Recruit and retain talented people who enrich the diversity of our LPGA family.
  3. MORE PLAYERS: Build and grow the pipeline of racially-diverse women and girls in golf.
  4. COMMUNICATIONS: Show that golf is a sport for everyone – and all are welcome. 
  5. LEADERSHIP: Demonstrate our commitment to diversity and opportunities in golf (and beyond) through our actions, communications, policies and partnerships.
Changing the face of golf – increasing representation – won’t happen overnight. But we know we can do it. We’ve seen what can happen when we are intentional, as we’ve watched the percentage of female youth golfers go from 15% percent to over 35% percent in the last 15 years.

Here's the bottom line. Racism has no home at the LPGA. Discrimination has nowhere to live at the LPGA. Not now, not in the past and certainly not in the future. When Renee Powell tried to check into a hotel and the hotel “misplaced her reservation” the whole Tour said: “either she checks in or none of us do.” They didn’t stand up to racism for publicity, they did it because it was the right thing to do.

When I think about the next 70 years of the LPGA, we have to continue to lead. We have to continue to want to get better personally. It’s not about a committee or policy, it’s a commitment to a core value. I hope you join us in making that commitment, because as this LPGA family gets better, we’ll make the golf industry better, too.

As my time as Commissioner comes to a close, it’s truly important to me that we continue to push the LPGA forward and make sure we’re a leader – when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Embrace this challenge as your own opportunity to learn, to grow, to lead! In the last 70 years we have fundamentally changed how women perceive this game, and their personal opportunities within it. We’ve got a chance to do that again in the next 70 years.

We owe it to the next generation, to be as bold and unrelenting as those that came before us.