Desirée Walker solves golf’s inclusivity problem
By Desiree Walker
Because I run a golf social events business called Road2By here in DC many people are surprised to learn that I didn’t start playing golf until relatively late in my life. As an African American woman, I was not exposed to golf growing up. But now that I’ve been bitten by the golf bug, I’m passionate about bringing golf to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play or be exposed to the game I fell in love with. . That’s why Road2Par’s mission is to bring underrepresented populations into the game.
So, as someone dedicated to growing the game locally, I was disappointed to learn that the PGA Tour, the most important face of golf in America, had threatened to block American players, including some of golf’s biggest superstars, to compete in tournaments on the Asian Tour. Not only does this defeat the Tour’s mission to promote and grow the game, but it ultimately makes it even harder for people like me to be exposed to golf in the first place.
I am the perfect example of the type of person the PGA Tour should do more to reach. I had never touched a golf club until a friend of mine suggested I try going to a Top Golf to celebrate my 30th birthday, and I was hooked right away. The more I played, the more I found that golf was not only a great way to exercise and reduce my stress levels, but it was also a way to challenge myself to always improve and to grow as a person. I became determined to play golf more of my life.
Within six months, I began taking courses at the Golf Academy of America, where I learned how to play, teach others, and the basics of golf course management. I was also certified by the Titleist Performance Institute to help people improve their fitness through golf. I started Road2Par, a blog that chronicles my obsession with golf as I transitioned into working in the industry, where I have since held various positions at both public and private courses.
I quickly realized that the biggest barrier to getting friends to join me was the intimidation they felt at the thought of just going to the golf course. Let’s face it; golf is very masculine, very white, and not always very welcoming. It can be intimidating for a new golfer to hit a course for the first time, and it can be even more intimidating for people of color. To make golf more accessible, I turned Road2Par into a golf event company that brings people to the golf course in a social setting to introduce them to the game.
Unfortunately, minorities are not only underrepresented at the participant level, but also at the professional level. There are only two African-American men who currently play full-time on the PGA Tour and one African-American woman who plays full-time on the LPGA Tour, which further contributes to a lack of representation of people of color. both on our hometown courses and when we watch golf on TV, which doesn’t help attract new participants or fans to the game.
That’s why I also don’t understand why the PGA Tour would try to stop players from attending Asian Tour events – and threaten to ticket or ban them if they did – which would help to expose even more people to golf. I know firsthand how Asia is an untapped market for golf, as evidenced by the growth of the LPGA with a strong influx of Asian players over the past few years. If I was running the PGA Tour, I would want to promote the game with my best players as much as possible in as many tournaments around the world as possible. We have great examples of this across tennis with stars like Naomi Osaka.
To me, the PGA Tour’s position on these issues shows that it is less an organization dedicated to promoting and growing the game of golf than a group determined to maintain control over the game and serve as his guardian. For a sport that has struggled with inclusion for decades, the Tour unfortunately reflects the “members only” attitudes of exclusion faced by many newcomers to golf, especially if they are of color. I know the PGA Tour is part of the “Make Golf Your ThingThe industry’s campaign to encourage more people to participate, but simultaneously threatening to fine or ban players for playing in other tournaments around the world does not send a welcome message to potential golfers and to the fans.
For now, I remain an outlier: a woman of color who became so obsessed with golf as an adult that I made it my life. I know firsthand from my events that there are others like me who would fall in love with the game if given the chance, and I encourage the PGA Tour to focus on creating a inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for new golfers rather than taking measures that do nothing. developing and promoting this great game.
Desiree Walker started Road2Par, LLC in 2016, after completing the Golf Course Management Program at the Golf Academy of America, located in Myrtle Beach, SC