Rich Jones believes Black history is important for all of us. Why? Because Black history is history. “Yes, it allows us to remember and honor those who have paved a way, but it should also remind us of the struggles and challenges many continue to face today,” said Jones, director of instruction at the Pine Ridge Golf Club, managed by Indigo Sports, in Coram, New York. “It should encourage and motivate everyone to work against, diminish or eliminate those continuing barriers.”
As a PGA member for more than 18 years, Jones is proud of the many recent strides taken to make the game and industry more accessible on the local, section, and national levels. “As a result of my participation in the PGA Lead program, I currently serve on the executive board of directors as Secretary of the Metropolitan PGA Section,” he said. “I am just one example and have recently witnessed a growing number of African-American members becoming involved in governance, both locally and nationally.”
Jones points to PGA WORKS as another great example of the many strides the PGA is making to increase accessibility. The program, championed by another African-American PGA member, Scooter Clark, includes the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship. One of the most culturally significant tournaments in collegiate golf, it annually hosts student-athletes enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving educational institutions. “In May 2021, 162 students from 41 schools competed at TPC Sawgrass,” said Jones. “My son and daughter played in the championship in 2021, representing Howard University.”
Jones is also incredibly proud of the growing number of organizations that create opportunities for African-Americans to play the game. Those include the APGA Tour and the John Shippen Foundation, which enable African-Americans to compete at a professional or amateur level and earn exemptions to PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events. Other black-owned businesses are also making their mark on the golf industry, such as Eastside Golf, Deuce, and In the Number. “It’s both beautiful and refreshing to see all the growing opportunities within the industry today,” he said.
For people of color interested in working in the golf industry, Jones offers the same advice he gives to his own children. “First, seek out an internship within the industry,” he said. “Also, find a mentor who will help you navigate your way within the golf industry. I know how important it is to have someone to share their experiences, knowledge, and skills that will help you develop further. You can start your search for one within your local PGA section. Then, pay it back by finding someone you can mentor, help and inspire along the way. The resources are out there, but you have to be proactive. It won’t happen automatically, but if you seek it out, you will be surprised what resources you may find.”
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