I met Leslie at the PGA show this past January. However, I already knew all about her before I was able to meet her in person. This is because my current boss, Jeff May, speaks wonders about Leslie and gave me insight to her journey to where she is now.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I'm pretty much customer service and sales for golf courses and retail in my territory, so I have Staten Island to Montauk. There's 39 of us around the country for Adidas, so there's not many. I service about 95 people right now. I just make sure they have stock for the year and I do events and tournaments. My busy season is pre-booking. So, that's kind of been my role since September of 2018.
Is that something you always wanted to do?
Well, I knew I wanted to do something in retail. In college, I joined the golf team for my first year and that's how I met the guys who introduced me to TaylorMade and Adidas. And after I worked with my Adidas rep for a while, I was thinking, "I could do something like this" or something along the line of retail, I just didn't know what that would look like. And I knew you had to work up to that point for a while, so I didn't know how soon it would happen. So, I had it in the back of my mind, I just didn't know how the outlet would work out. And I did work at a few courses; I think three before I met Jeff [May] so I knew about that side of things and wasn't sure if I wanted to do that. But it was a good starting point obviously with him, so I knew retail was kind of where I wanted to go.
To give a little background about Jeff and Leslie, I actually interviewed Jeff about their first encounter. At the time, Leslie's boyfriend was a tech rep for TaylorMade and was helping Jeff build a putting green. Leslie was on Long Island visiting her boyfriend and little did she know, she'd be offered a job by the end of it. Long story short, they needed help in terms of physical labor and without hesitation, Leslie was there.
Jeff said, "Somebody you wouldn't expect to jump right in there and just work their ass off right away, did. She was extremely helpful. She jumped right in and was not shy. You could tell she worked hard within seconds and I was in need of a shop manager at the time. It took me about five minutes to realize that she checked all the boxes. She had the personality, she's open, she's fun, she's working hard, so I inquired about her becoming shop manager. I tried to sell her on the position as best as I could. One, because I thought she would be truly good at it. And two, because I really needed somebody and I didn't think I would ever find anybody better than her. And when she came in, she immediately showed drive and energy and enthusiasm and business savvy that I would not expect from somebody of her age."
Leslie asked if she could get that offer in writing, so Jeff wrote it on a napkin. To this day, she still has it. Leslie worked for Jeff for about five months before being offered the position with Adidas. From the beginning, Jeff knew that Leslie was destined for more than his shop manager.
"She is somebody that came into the business and right away you recognize that she's talented, she's driven, she's hungry, and you just want to educate her and move her on to the best career path that she could possibly have. And that's what I did. I knew when she took the position that she's not somebody that I'm going to have for a long time because she's extremely capable and going to move on to bigger and better things, which she did. I was happy to support her for that."
In your rep world, how are the demographics? Is it even in terms of gender, or is one gender more prevalent?
I feel like it's predominantly male. I felt that shift in the past year. And it's definitely an older demographic on the rep side, which is kind of crazy. And I've also felt that shift a little bit since I was hired. I'm usually the butt of the jokes at the sales meeting for my age, but it's okay. I think they're all just a little scared that that's happening.
But like I said, there's 39 of us. There's probably 12 women.
Do you feel like your experience as a woman in this position differs from that of a man in the same position?
Unfortunately, yeah, but I think more of it is positive for me, which is nice.
The guy before me was an older gentleman, and he was really well-liked and respected. So they were all kind of hesitant when I took the position thinking that it wasn't going to be the same and that Adidas didn't care about them. But, you know, as the year went on, I've made a lot of good friends, I've met a lot of good people, and people have been more receptive to me, which has been very nice.
So, I would say it's mostly positive in the fact that they like to deal with me because they see that I care a little bit more and that I'm more on top of my stuff than others. Obviously, you get some negative in there but it's more good than bad.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I think being able to be in front of customers and have personal relationships further than just selling. You know, some of these guys have let me meet their family and meet their wives and hang out with them outside of just a pro shop setting. So, being able to grow relationships and make those last in different ways other than just selling something means a lot to me because I'm a very big people person.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry?
Definitely the way consumers buy now is a challenge because they're not really supporting the shop as much. A lot of people shop online. And as we get a lot of younger golfers, to change that mentality is going to be pretty tough. So, I'd say the shopping aspect is probably my biggest challenge.
How do you think this industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
I think it benefits it because you can be a role model for people who don't really know what they want to do. I know I have some guys that have introduced me to their daughters who are similar to my age, who probably didn't know this is even a role you could step into. I think teaching people that and showing that golf is for females too is really, really awesome. And with that comes expansion across the board in the whole industry, which is good.
What are your future aspirations in the industry?
I would love to obviously have maybe a bigger territory or you know, handle larger clients like Dick's or something like that. When I was in Pittsburgh, I worked the Oakmont event. So, I got to be in the merchandise tent with Adidas, which was awesome. And they ended up taking me to three other tournaments after that and I got to work with them at Bethpage last year because they were in my territory. Yeah, so that would be a dream goal. There's only two people that run that section so it's kind of hard to get, but I love helping them out as much as I can. And I do like that side of it because it's a lot of travel and excitement, so something like that would be cool.
If you had any words of inspiration or advice for young women going into this career in the golf industry, what would it be?
I would say to be persistent, dedicated, and passionate in what you do. I think if you bring passion behind something, especially in this industry, when it is male-dominated, they respect you a lot more when you have that fight and fire and show that you respect and care for them too. To be able to do that every day takes a lot of passion.