PGA reaches out to women at on-course professional development day

    As golf’s top male players practiced for this week’s 2015 PGA Championship and the ensuing crowds of fans followed them around the course at Whistling Straits Tuesday, a group of about 70 women gathered for a day of professional development in one of the many chalets that have been erected on the course.
    The event, “Beyond the Green: Elevating Exceptional Women” highlighted both women’s role in business and the business community’s connection to golf, as the PGA continues its national effort to attract a more diverse group of golfers to the game. Most of the attendees were female entrepreneurs and business owners, many of whom were from the Milwaukee area.

    Sandy Cross, senior director of diversity & inclusion at the PGA of America, and Laura Kohler, senior vice president of human resources and stewardship at Kohler Co., stressed to those gathered the importance of celebrating the attributes women bring to the business world.

    “Business needs our ideas, they need our talent, and they need our buying power,” Kohler said. “With Beyond the Green, the PGA is supporting the role golf can play in the business world. Golf can be a tool to leveraging and developing our business acumen.”

    A morning panel, “Small Business-Big World: How to Surpass Expectations,” centered on the tools and resources available to market a business to potential customers, particularly women.
    Moderated by Van Adams, president of VanAdams Sports Group, the panel featured: Jill Close, consumer segment lead at Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Co.; J. Kelly Hoey, speaker, strategist and investor; Joni Lockridge, director of digital strategy at PGA of America and Donna Orender, chief executive officer of Orender Unlimited.

    Close presented some of the steps Harley-Davidson has taken to increase its female ridership. Among them are garage parties, which are hosted by dealerships just for women, to answer any questions, provide camaraderie, and offer test drives.

    “The garage parties are a great asset to the dealerships to start communicating and start connecting with women outside the motorcycle world,” Close said. “It’s very empowering. When I rode out to Sturgis this year, I saw so many women not just on the back, but riding themselves.”

    Lockridge said the PGA is targeting all its potential players through online conversations that match up with how she would speak to someone in real life.

    Hoey said she networks through social media, and also advised being authentic online. Treat Twitter like a real-life cocktail party, she said.

    The panelists also provided advice for women in business generally, especially when it comes to breaking down barriers and working in environments geared toward men.

    “Don’t wait for the invitation to play the game of life, because it’s happening with or without us,” Orender said. “And when you do, have the courage of your convictions.”

    “Invest in the change you want to see in the world. (Women are) moving markets. Let’s move it in a way we want,” Hoey said.

    “Stretch your boundaries,” Close said. “Put yourself out there in ways you’ve never thought before.”

    “What you’re doing in your day-to-day lives is enough and you are good enough,” Adams said. “Sometimes that perfectionist attitude gets in the way. Learn to say no, but also learn to say yes to things that are outside your comfort zone.”

    Following the morning presentations, the group took tours of the Championship site, participated in a Leadership Luncheon, listened to a keynote address from Scott Eblin, co-founder and president of The Eblin Group, and heard from a panel of golf professionals about myths of the game. A closing reception followed.

    “We’re thrilled to have hosted a day of engaging panels with leaders who carried the conversation about business growth, professional development, and how golf fits perfectly with this process,” Cross said. “It’s important that the golf industry invites women to learn and play the game, and events like Beyond the Green showcase the role golf has played in the personal and professional lives of these leaders. The growth of the sport depends on welcoming women to the game.”

    Set on Kohler Co.’s rolling 36-hole links-style course in the Town of Mosel, near Sheboygan, the 97th PGA Championship is big business. It attracts an international audience of athletes, volunteers and spectators, as well as international and local corporations who host hospitality chalets on the course.

    Practice rounds run through today, and the Championship officially begins tomorrow, concluding on Sunday. The PGA reported record corporate and ticket sales this year, and sellout crowds are expected on Saturday and Sunday. Fans purchased a variety of ticket packages, including passes to the practice rounds. Spectators from all over the world have snatched up hotel rooms and will spend their dollars in the area. When it’s all said and done, the PGA Championship is expected to make a $100 million impact on the local economy.

    Molly Dill is managing editor at BizTimes Milwaukee.

    Van Adams, Donna Orender, Joni Lockridge, J. Kelly Hoey and Jill Close discuss how small businesses can surpass expectations.

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