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Black History Month

Kristy Edwards

Kristy Edwards

General Manager - Jackson Park Golf Course

Kristy Edwards with friend
Kristy Edwards with collegiate golfer Mulbe Dillard IV

Q: Is there someone you credit to bringing you into the game of golf and keeping the fire going?

A: Absolutely. My brother and father played golf years before I started. However, I credit my athletic interests to my brother Mark. We played so many different sports in the backyard growing up in Chicago as kids, but I didn’t pick up golf until 2008. I would practice in secret, so I could prove to him and my dad that I could really play. Sometimes when my brother and I play today, we have personal conversations during our round. When I’m faced with a challenge, he reminds me life is like a round of golf. “You can’t give up early. There’s still a lot of holes left to play.” And so I play on. He’s the only person I know who won’t take a mulligan.

Q: You studied Educational Publishing in college and what made you decide to get into the golf business?

A:  As much as I love golf, my first passion has always been education. I graduated from Tennessee State University, a historically black college. I studied literature and business. I later received my Master’s Degree from Purdue University. I taught at the college level for a short while and later worked in educational publishing for a number of years. I’ve always loved sports and fitness. I played golf after college and later began volunteering at Glenwoodie Golf Course, coaching the First Tee and organizing golf outings. After doing that for a few years, my best friend challenged me to think about how I could work in the golf industry full-time. After my mother passed in 2013, I had a tremendous life shift. I began to look at life differently and think more about doing what I truly enjoyed. I decided to pursue a job in golf management. I didn’t care about the salary shift or the career I was leaving behind.

Q: How long have you been with Troon/Indigo?

A:I’ve been with Indigo for seven years. I started as an assistant manager and I was later promoted to manage two courses. I’ve managed three facilities at one time – it wasn’t always easy, but I’ve been blessed to have good people around me. Here I am seven years later, and I have no regrets.

Q: Why is Black History Month important to you and how is the golf industry taking strides in making the game more accessible, both at the playing level, as well as for a career in the golf industry?

A: Black History Month is very important to me. It reminds me of who I am, where I’m from, as well as the beauty and strength of those who came before me. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where I was reminded of this often. My mother’s side of the family believed in deep family traditions, and storytelling was a part of that. I grew up listening to vivid family stories that also connected to significant moments in history. My mother attended Emmett Till’s funeral. Her connection to this tragedy will stay with me forever. I’ve heard my oldest sister recall the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She remembers leaving school early and running home as the Chicago riots began on the west side of Chicago. My great aunt told me a hilarious story of when she met Count Basie after a jazz performance at a night club; they took a photo together. She actually had the old black and white photograph to prove it! I loved the story and the photograph so much – she gave me a copy of it before she passed away and I have it framed in my home today. So yes, it’s very important to see Black History Month highlighted and to hear others share their stories. It opens an opportunity for us all to be reminded of why this beautiful Black heritage is so precious.

Q: How is the golf industry taking strides in making the game more accessible, both at the playing level, as well as for a career in the golf industry?

A: The golf industry has made efforts to make the game more diverse – but more needs to be done. It’s good to see junior golf programs in minority neighborhoods. However, they need to grow. On the tour level, it’s nice to see exemptions given to young African American golfers who have aspirations to play professionally. For example, the 2022 Genesis Invitational gave an exemption to Aaron Beverly through the Charlie Sifford Exemption. The Farmers Open is another PGA tournament that provides exemptions to minority golfers. Opportunities like these are promising but few. In operations, I’d like to see recruiting programs that target HBCUs (historically black colleges/universities). Sean Foley is well-known as a swing coach for tour professionals. He formerly worked with Tiger Woods – but did you know that he played collegiate golf and graduated from Tennessee State University?…an HBCU. Oprah Winfrey attended Tennessee State as well. If we really want to give qualified applicants a serious shot, go to the pool. HBCUs are a wonderful source for minority talent. These historic institutions of higher learning are filled with bright minds ready to rock the world.

Q: What are you doing either with your teams and/or at your facility to create an environment that is welcoming to everyone, helping to promote a DE&I environment?

A: We receive a diverse group of players at our courses, including a large number of minority golfers. My courses offer youth programs through the First Tee and Bob-O-Links organization. Many of our participants are minority juniors. Getting kids started early is so important. We make our golf course and driving range accessible for these kids. I’ve coached with the First Tee of Greater Chicago as well as with the Chicago Junior Golf League. It’s such a thrill to be a part of that. Also I’ve been exposed to diverse environments throughout my life, so as a manager, I’ve always made an effort to hire diverse teams. This is so important for the team and the community. And finally, during times when I’ve stood as the only African American or the only black woman present, I’ve always believed it’s so important to embrace those opportunities as a golf professional with dignity and pride but also with a spirit of gratitude and humility. I understand how significant those opportunities can be in moving diversity efforts forward.

Q: What is one thing that most people don’t know about you (that you don’t mind sharing)?

A: I like real estate. Before I began working in golf, I dabbled in real estate and improvement projects. I can make some things happen if you give me a circular saw, some plywood, and a few 2x4s.

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