‘We have made strides’: Golf trailblazer receives award, talks diversity in PGA

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Suzy Whaley was honored at a ceremony at the Country Club of Rochester Wednesday night.

In 2003 she became the first woman in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour, and in 2018 she became the first woman President of the PGA of America.

Wednesday she received the Walter Hagen Ambassador of the Game Award. She was celebrated by hundreds of people that attended the ceremony in her honor.

“It’s special cause it has a couple of deep meanings for me,” says Whaley. “Walter Hagen was one of the founders of the PGA of America in 1916, and the PGA championship is here in Rochester. So, it’s fitting that I have an opportunity to receive that since I’ve been President of the PGA of America.”

Becoming the first woman PGA President didn’t come easy. She is thankful and respects the women who came before her- like Babe Zaharias and Althea Gibson who paved the way for her. Although the game of golf is a male dominated industry, they are making strides- and Whaley is proud of that.

“We have 40% juniors now that are girls,” says Whaley. “That’s going to get to 51 if I have anything to say about it. But what a great leap from just 10 years ago. And even with our people that are non-white, we’ve had very few for so long and now we are at 35%. Again- not where we need to be.”

Whaley explains that the importance of sponsorship and partnership with organizations that engage people in the game of golf is the PGA of America’s mission. As a champion of diversity, she says they have partnered and sponsored organizations like Black Girls Golf.

“In lots of conversations with the PGA of America, I understood that they really had a vision for making the game the work force mirror what the demographics of America look like now,” says Tiffany Mack Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald is the CEO and Founder of Black Girls Golf. It introduces black girls and women to golf. Within 10 years, the organization grew more than 6,000 members in close to 50 states. The PGA of America has been one of their biggest supports for the past few years.

“I’ve had candidates come through my program that have been PGA Fellows through the PGA Reach program so the partnership really is a win win,” says.

For more on Black Girls Golf, click here.