The article provides a report on the successful acquisition of the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) golf management university program by the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES). The PGA’s accredited program is housed at 20 universities with UMES being the first predominantly Black college to offer the coveted program. The article provides interview excerpts on the process undertaken by UMES. The article also identifies initiatives by programs and associations to increase minority golf participation.
- golf management
- hospitality education
- minority golf
A serious golf conversation today would not be complete without the mention of Tiger Woods. Tiger has won 71 tournaments through 2009, 14 of which were major championships. Over the past decade, Tiger Woods has emerged as one of the most recognized professional athletes of all time. This is no small feat as the game of golf has not always been synonymous with members of minority populations. Instead, the game was viewed by many as an exclusive and elitist pastime, enjoyed primarily by affluent White males who possess the physical, social, and economic traits and attributes required to access golfing facilities. Hence, it is no wonder that, during the early days of golf as an organized American professional sport, minority groups such as African Americans and females were systematically excluded or denied active and direct participation. This was because of the fact that the game of golf is a club-driven sport. Membership and access to clubs were contingent on the selection process. Sadly, other American professional sports such as baseball, basketball, and football also enforced selective participation restrictions, limiting minority participation during the early years of inception.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, societal pressures combined with civil rights activities had profound effects on American professional sports. Desegregation in professional sport commenced, creating opportunities for minorities to participate equally, halfheartedly, or as “tokens of jest.” An early example of such change took place at the 1963 San Diego Open. The Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) finally allowed the first African American to compete in a PGA tour event, not for his ability but as a sponsor exemption. The golfer was world heavy-weight champion Joe Lewis. This token of jest was perceived as demeaning, yet it provided a pathway for future African Americans to participate in professional golf tournaments. Others included Charlie Sifford and Pete Brown. Sifford won two tour events, one senior event, and was the first African American to be inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame, in 2004 (PGA, 2009b). Brown became the first African American to win a PGA-sanctioned event, the 1964 Waco Turner Open. These trailblazers have afforded the opportunity for people of all races and color to see golf not as an exclusive and elitist pastime but as a game in which playing and career opportunities abound for qualified individuals. Golf is a technical sport requiring an extensive body of competencies before career opportunities can be fully exploited. Acquisition of such knowledge is often cost prohibitive for members of minority groups, which subsequently excludes minorities from active participation and career exploration. However, in recent years, initiatives geared specifically toward increasing minority participation have been developed and implemented. One such initiative was undertaken in 2008 with the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES). The PGA granted UMES the right to offer the coveted “Golf Management University Program” as one of its on-campus academic programs. The UMES is a historically Black college. This PGA initiative with UMES represented a profound departure from past practices. UMES welcomed the inaugural class of aspiring PGA professionals in the fall of 2008.
This article explores the issues of minority participation in the game of golf with specific emphasis on African American participation. The article continues by examining the PGA initiatives geared toward increasing minority participation in the game. The golf management university program accreditation process is outlined with specific emphasis on the process undertaken by UMES. The article concludes with excerpts from an interview conducted with Dr. Ernest Boger, chairman and associate professor of the Hotel and Management Department, School of Business and Technology at UMES. The interview revealed the process undertaken by UMES in its successful quest to become one of only 20 universities in the United States to offer the PGA Golf Management University Program. The information provided in this article can be valuable to universities that want to add the PGA’s accredited program to their academic curricula.
Minority Golf Participation and Initiatives
The National Golf Foundation (NGF) provides relevant information on every aspect of the golf industry. The most recent study on minority golfer participation was published by the NGF in 2003. In that year, the total number of golfers above the age of 18 was reported at 27 million (NGF, 2009). Of those 27 million golfers, approximately 5% were African Americans, 4% were Asian Americans, and less than 4% were Hispanic Americans (NGF, 2009). A more recent study in 2008 reported total golfer participation had increased to 29 million. Unfortunately, statistics specific to minority golf participation were not recorded, but it could be assumed that such numbers would reveal low participation in relation to nonminority golf participation. In an effort to increase minority participation in the game, various programs and associations have implemented golf-related initiatives. Two such initiatives were established by the World Golf Association and by the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association.
The World Golf Association established The “First Tee” Program in 1997. The First Tee Program provides young people between the ages of 8 to 18, from all backgrounds, an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values through golf and character education (The First Tee, 2009). The program’s objectives are to introduce golf to 3.5 million individuals to the game over a 5-year period, to provide life skills experience at all its facilities, to expand the program to 140 communities over the 5-year period, to establish a First Tee chapter in all 50 states, and to develop First Tee operations in 90% of the top golf markets (The First Tee, 2009). Since its inception, more than 3 million children from minority groups have participated in the program.
The Bill Dickey Scholarship Association (formerly the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association) was formally established in 1994 as a nonprofit organization. Their goal was to assist minority college-bound students in achieving excellence through the game of golf. The association was the brainchild of its founder, Bill Dickey. During the 1970s, Dickey envisioned a national organization composed of individuals and golf clubs committed to affording minorities the opportunity to participate in golf at the junior and college levels. The overall focus of the organization was on young minority golfers. The goal was to increase minority participation in golf while pursuing an education through support and financial assistance (Dickey, 2009).
The PGA of America’s Golf Management University Program
The PGA Golf Management University Program, formally called the PGA Professional Golf Management Program, is a 4.5-year structured educational program offered at 20 universities nationwide. The program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the golf industry. The program includes classroom studies, internship experiences, and player development (PGA, 2009a). Ferris State University became the first PGA-accredited program in 1975. Today, there are 20 PGA-accredited university programs. Table 1 depicts the school, the academic unit in which the golf management program is located, and their respective maximum handicap entrance requirement. Students graduating from accredited universities receive a baccalaureate degree on completion of the institution’s academic requirements, the PGA’s internship requirements, and the playing ability test (PAT) mandates. Each graduate becomes a PGA professional on completion of their respective baccalaureate degree. Graduates typically gain employment as golf-teaching professionals, tournament directors, pro shop managers, or golf sales representatives. Graduates also gain employment in golf retail, media, marketing, or with golf associations.
The UMES PGA Golf Management University Program and Interview
The PGA Golf Management University Program is open to all university-bound students nationwide. The program at UMES has special significance as it coincides with the PGA’s effort to increase golf participation and golf career opportunities for minorities. Both the university and the PGA felt that they could develop a symbiotic relationship and achieve their respective goals of offering the PGA golf management program at a historically and predominantly Black college. The accreditation process was initiated in 2002 with full accreditation awarded in 2008. The authors were granted a telephone interview with Dr. Boger in January 2009. The goal was to gain insight into UMES’s successful quest in becoming 1 of only 20 universities selected nationwide to acquire the PGA accreditation and to also be the first predominantly African American university with such distinction.
Dr. Ernest Boger, chairman and associate professor of the Hotel and Management Department, School of Business and Technology at the UMES, was in his first 30 days at UMES when the university decided to formally pursue the PGA Golf Management University Program. The following are excerpts from the interview with Dr. Boger.
How Did the Pursuit of the PGA Accreditation Begin?
The UMES is a land grant, historically Black college located in the small town of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In 2002, Dr. Thelma B. Thompson, President of UMES, wanted the university to become involved with the golf industry. The university contacted the PGA and was subsequently provided a list of the accreditation requirements to the university. On review of the university requirements, our president decided that UMES would be proactive and develop a framework that would allow us to exceed the PGA requirements. By 2004, the UMES Golf Academy opened, offering the only year-round, indoor golf training facility in the state of Maryland with computer-assisted golf swing analysis equipment and the short game Putt, Pitch, and Chip Center. The UMES Golf Academy became a unique offering among the 35 golf courses located on the Eastern Shore. The PGA was informed of the UMES Golf Academy and of UMES’s commitment to golf education. The PGA began informal discussions with President Thompson about the PGA’s Golf Management University Program.
What Was the Timeline for Receiving the Accreditation of the PGA Golf Management University Program?
From start to finish, the accreditation process lasted 3 years. After our informal discussions with the PGA, our administrators were given a list of requirements that had to be met prior to formal consideration by the PGA. Within 4 to 5 months, all requirements had been met, and a formal proposal was sent to the PGA. The goal of UMES was to exceed the expectations set forth by the PGA. By all accounts, they did. The specific requirements were to secure full-time positions for an incoming director of the program and for an internship coordinator, and a PGA golf professional to be employed in one of the positions. An administrative assistant position specific to the PGA program was also secured, an additional requirement for each university. The facility requirements were to designate an office area for the program, secure golf course and practice area access for students in the program, and have access to a learning laboratory, including a model pro shop, club fitting, and club repair facilities. PGA representatives conducted a site visit and were satisfied that all requirements were met. The UMES became the 20th university in the country to receive accreditation of the PGA Golf Management University Program. UMES also became the first historically Black college or university to receive the PGA accreditation. The first class of PGA golf management students arrived on the UMES campus for the Fall 2008 semester.
Did You Hire Personnel Directly Responsible for the PGA Golf Management University Program at UMES?
Yes, this had the full support from the university’s president. The PGA requires three positions dedicated to each accredited program. The PGA requires a director to be in place 1 year prior to the inaugural class of students. A full-time faculty member was hired at UMES to fill that role. The PGA also requires an internship coordinator to be in place 6 months prior to the start of the program. The internship coordinator must be a graduate of a PGA professional golf management program. Hence, an internship coordinator was hired by UMES, thereby meeting all the requirements of the PGA. Finally, an administrative assistant was hired, completing the personnel requirements mandated by the PGA. In addition, the PGA requires that all personnel affiliated with a university program must attend a PGA Expo Show prior to the commencement of the program. This, too, was completed.
What Department and/or College Is the Program Housed Under and What Degree Will Your Students Receive on Completion of the PGA’s Academic Program?
The PGA Golf Management University Program is housed in the School of Business and Technology. The students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Golf Management on completion of the program. The program is a comprehensive degree program, integrating the curriculum requirements of a hotel and restaurant management major with the knowledge base of the PGA’s professional golf management program, including 16 months of structured internship experience and a PAT. The PAT is mandated by the PGA.
Were There Any Issues or Concerns From the University When Developing the Curriculum Requirements Mandated From the PGA?
The university has set policies in regard to proposing a new degree program and curriculum. The process starts with approval by the faculty and concludes with approval by the state of Maryland. We did run into a small issue, but it was resolved. Our goal was to offer a Bachelor of Science in Golf Management, but our curriculum proposal totaled 130 credit hours, 10 more than the customary 120 credit hours. UMES was required to make a special request to the state of Maryland to acquire a 130 credit-hour degree program, which was successfully awarded.
What Is/Are the Enrollment Criteria Specific to the Golf Management Program at UMES?
A student must verify a handicap of 12 or less to be considered as an incoming student in the golf management program at UMES. This is in addition to the regular academic requirements for enrollment consideration. The PGA also requires a player development program to be in place for students who either do not have a documented 12 handicap or less, or for those students who are having trouble passing the mandated PAT. The player development program at UMES is devoted to PAT preparation, offering strategies in full swing, short game, and game management. The player development program is designed to prepare students to successfully pass the PAT as early in the program as possible. The program is offered with both classroom instruction and coordinated practice and playing, and is conducted by a PGA member of the golf management staff. Once a student has passed the PAT, they will no longer be required to participate in the player development program. For those students who do not pass the PAT by their sophomore year, UMES offers an academic safety net. The curriculum is set up so that a student can transition toward a degree pursuit in hotel and restaurant management if it becomes clear that the PAT requirement may not be successfully completed.
What Is Your First Year’s Enrollment and What Are Your Enrollment Goals?
The goal for the 1st year was 25 students. We have 20 students. The demographic profile of the inaugural class is as follows: 5 African Americans, 1 Korean, and 14 White. Currently, there are no women enrolled in the UMES golf management program. Eight of the students are on academic scholarships. Our goal is to have 100 students in the PGA program, which means that we have to add 25 students each year. UMES is committed to enrolling a talented student body from a variety of ethnic and geographic backgrounds. The program is dedicated to supporting the PGA’s objective of recruiting qualified minorities into each of its accredited university programs. To help each accredited university with minority recruitment, the PGA provides scholarship monies each year. PGA diversity scholarship assistance is available for African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and females on a competitive basis. UMES will recruit nationally for prospective students.
Do You Have Concerns That the Golf Industry Is Not Growing Fast Enough to Absorb Graduates?
No major concerns. The PGA guarantees employment for all students graduating from a PGA-accredited university program. UMES is happy that their students will all graduate with PGA accreditation, status, and membership.
What Types of Employment Opportunities Are Associated With PGA Accreditation?
There are many directions a graduate may take on receiving membership in the PGA. Common pursuits include positions in pro shop operations, golf course operations, and teaching the game of golf. There are also positions beyond the golf course. Graduates may seek employment in corporate and association management, manufacturing, sales, marketing, golf technology, course and club house design and development, research and development, merchandising, tournament operations, and public relations.
What Facilities Are Available for UMES Students Pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Golf Management?
We are privileged to have Great Hope Golf Course and Nutters Crossing Golf Course as the official home courses for the UMES program. Great Hope and Nutters Crossing will be home to many of our golf management tournaments and will be used as learning laboratories for many of our work experience activities. In addition, a model “golf shop” is provided as a learning laboratory at Nutters Crossing Golf Course. The program will use the Nutters Crossing Golf Course in many of our work experience activities and incorporate budgeting, procurement, merchandising, and operations procedures.
Can You Offer Advice for Other Academic Programs in Their Pursuit of the PGA’s Accredited Golf Management University Program?
Absolutely. We had full support of this pursuit from the President of UMES. Such support was instrumental in the accreditation process. We also sought not only to meet requirements set forth for PGA-accredited programs but to exceed such expectations. We wanted the PGA to know that we were 100% committed to securing accreditation.
Historically, the game of golf as a professional sport systematically excluded minority participation. However, in recent years, several organizations have attempted to increase minority participation through targeted initiatives. One such initiative is the PGA’s Golf Management University Program geared at preparing individuals for careers in the golf industry. UMES provides an excellent example of how the program was implemented at a historically and predominantly Black college. The university was successful in obtaining the coveted accreditation due to several reasons.
First and foremost was full institution support. The accreditation solicitation process was spearheaded by the university’s president who proactively provided the necessary resources that would support the application process. This commitment caught the attention of PGA officials. UMES went a step further by exceeding PGA expectations, once the application process for the program was underway. As a result, they completed the formal application process in 4 to 5 months. Many institutions undergo an application process of more than 1 year. This short time frame underscores the notion that support of the university president and the state of Maryland was crucial in the program development process at UMES. It also suggests that the PGA is supportive in exposing minority groups to career opportunities in the game of golf. UMES’s successful quest in acquiring the golf management accreditation also highlights the need for partnership between academic institutions and the golf community; that is, the UMES partnership with several area golf courses for the practical PGA requirements. Finally, increasing minority participation in golf requires initiatives and organizations designed to expose members of minority populations to golf at an early age. Examples of such organizations include the First Tee and the Bill Dickey Scholarship Foundation. The combination of early exposure, scholarships, and structured educational programs should increase minority participation in the game of golf in the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see whether other historically Black colleges and universities pursue the PGA Golf Management University Program. It will also be interesting to examine demographic composition of these programs to see whether members of minority groups are taking advantages of these golf educational opportunities.
Jill Fjelstul, Ed.D. is an assistant professor with the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. She is a sanctioned class-A golf professional by the LPGA and a former collegiate golf head coach. Her scholarly area is in the field of Gold and Club Management.
Leonard A. Jackson, PhD. is an associate professor at the University of Memphis. His research focuses on the hospitality lodging sector with emphasis on financial performance.
Dana V. Tesone, PhD. is a professor of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. His scholarly focus is in the area of applied management to include leadership and human resource management.
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.
- © The Author(s) 2011