Inspired by her experiences in junior golf programs, Jamie Taylor has come full circle and now plays a major role within the LPGA. She is extremely ambitious, takes on challenges, and is not afraid to speak up when she sees an area that needs change.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
I'm the LPGA Foundation's Program Manager and I've been working there since 2015. That's my main job and that entails doing a lot of events for the LPGA USGA Girls Golf Program, as far as national events and promoting that, and I focus specifically on the teenage demographic. We have special academies we do called the LPGA Leadership Academy. I also started a program called the eLeaders, which is a National Volunteer Program to engage more high school girls. As you know, in most sports, high school girls are the ones that leave so that was another way to engage and that's been around since 2016.
I also help with the scholarship program. We give out college scholarships to those girls that are either pursuing collegiate golf or not pursuing it, but at least have played golf in high school. I also just created an app with the girls golf program, which is something I've never done before, but with the way things are, I felt like an app was necessary to help with our communication between our sites.
What is the LPGA USGA Girls Golf Program?
I liken it to a Girl Scouts golf type of program where we have them all over the country. They're run by mostly LPGA/PGA professionals but we do also have them at First Tee sites and some other areas. It's a grassroots initiative that's been around since 1989. And it's an environment for girls ages six to 17 to basically introduce them to golf and give them an environment where it's not just competition and golf, but also there's the social aspect. A lot of females tend to be more social. So, we provide curriculum and tools, a lot of it being more of a girly vibe, because you don't get that at a lot at the golf courses and it makes it more exciting for girls to get into golf. It doesn't cost anything to start a program for girls golf. It's really just about trying to get as many girls in the game as possible.
I saw that you also founded the Black Golf Directory. What is that?
It's similar to what you're doing with Golfhers. I'm really trying to focus on highlighting African Americans in the golf industry because unfortunately, when you Google "African American golf pros," a lot of times you'll see the same ones. And those are typically Renee Powell, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sifford, who's not even alive, and you can't find me. You can't find other pros that may have a website or some type of social media account when you Google it. I've been thinking about this for a while. This actually initiated because I used to run golf courses.
Prior to coming to LPGA, I was a clubhouse manager. I had run two golf courses for over seven years. When I left, because I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio, a lot of people said, "Where can I find another pro like you?" One, they're referring to being female and two, being African American. And I didn't know what to tell them because there weren't a lot of pros I knew in my area that I could refer. But then I thought, "Where would you go to find these people?" That's what led to the Google search which revealed to me that it doesn't exist.
I kind of pondered and then that's when I decided this past winter to see what this would look like if I created this type of platform. I just kind of wrote it on paper and I'm sure it's similar to how you came up with your own idea. I decided to try it out on the website and then it just naturally kind of happened. I started telling people about it and people were really excited.
The goal of Black Golf Directory is to connect people with African American golf professionals, and by professionals I mean tour players, professionals like you and I at golf clubs, as well as college coaches. Also amateur groups, junior golf groups, because I grew up in a predominantly black junior golf group which had made a difference in my life, and also black-owned golf businesses.
How were you introduced to golf?
Prior to golf, I was a tennis player. My dad, my brother and I play tennis. I started at the age of five. My mom was asthmatic, so my dad thought that golf might be a better fit to include her. So, we all took lessons together at the local driving range that was near the house. And that's kind of how it all started as a family activity. When we went on trips, that's what we did; we went and played golf. It wasn't until I turned eight that I joined a local junior golf program called the Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund, which is kind of a pre-First Tee Program that still exists and has been around for 40 years. I'm now the president of it.
Because I joined it with my Godsisters who I was close to really catapulted me into golfing at a more serious level. I played my first tournament at the age of nine. And through that program, they encouraged me to play my first competition and I won that competition. So, that really drove me because I'm a naturally competitive person. For me, winning just took it to the next level. I, of course, aspired to be a golf pro at that time and that kept me going.
From there, I went on to start my high school golf team. I went to a private school called Laurel in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I played all sports. I played tennis, softball, basketball, track, volleyball, I played everything. But they didn't have a golf team, and that was fine for me because I played golf in the summer. But they knew I was a competitive golfer so the school administration asked me if I'd be willing to start a golf team. I was hesitant, I'm not going to lie. I was really enjoying the other sports. I played tennis still at the time and that was a fall sport and golf was a fall sport so I couldn't do them both. But I agreed my junior year to help get a team going. I was able to get 11 other girls and myself to start the team. And even though most of them were beginner or never golfed, they were very enthusiastic about doing it. So, junior and senior year I played on the golf team and captained the golf team.
Going to private school and playing golf, my mom was like, "You need to pay for your own college." From that, I realized I had to get a full ride. I got full ride offers from a combination of Division I and Division II schools, some of them historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). I settled on Gannon University, which is a Catholic University in Erie, Pennsylvania mainly because it had a small team and it was the only team with a female coach. It was a small school which I was accustomed to coming from an all girls high school and they had a five year MBA program.
The interesting thing about the conference and my team was that I was the only minority. I was used to that, but it was pretty extreme if you think about the whole conference and being the only minority every time you go play. But my parents got to come to all of my events, which was great.
How did you decide to work in the industry?
I got my Bachelor's in business management and my Master's of Business Administration. I figured I was going to either play golf as a professional, be in the golf industry professionally, or go into corporate America and use golf as a tool, you know, to get a job. I knew once I got to college that I was never going to be a professional golfer. I didn't have the discipline for it and my scores were okay, but they were not amazing by any means. By the time I got to my fifth year, I decided I was going to look into working for a nonprofit like the First Tee because I like working with juniors and I had experience with that throughout my career. And every job I had leading up to this point was in golf. My resume was like "golf, golf, golf."
So, I decided to go for the First Tee. I wanted to live in California. That was one of my dream things to do and I got two job offers there. One for the First Tee of Monterrey and one for the First Tee of Ventura County and I chose the Ventura County job. Unfortunately, the job only lasted four months because they just started putting people on salary and they couldn't afford it. With California being expensive, I kind of couldn't stay.
I was trying to figure out what to do with my life because obviously golf was everything I knew and all I wanted to do. I dabbled in some other stuff but I got back into teaching at the course where I grew up, Shawnee Hills. And through that, I got a summer gig running a junior golf camp for them because they needed somebody last minute and that turned into a head pro job. They not only offered me the job, but they also offered to pay for me to get my LPGA certification. So, it definitely wasn't the plan but worked out in an awesome way for sure.
From there, I ran my home course from 2008 to roughly 2011 and then they acquired another golf course called Seneca Golf Course in Broadview Heights and they had me transfer over there and at one point running both courses. Mind you, Shawnee Hills is a 27-hole facility with a driving range and a restaurant and all that. And then they had me take over Seneca, which is a 36-hole facility. I was running both for a short amount of time while they figured out what they were going to do and then I eventually just stayed at Seneca until I left to come to LPGA.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
To be honest, the rewarding part is just really being able to grow the game because the purpose of me going to LPGA is because I knew that I'd have a much better presence, you know, being African American and a female on a global level. A lot of times when I do events, I may be the only brown face in the room and girls look to me like, "Oh my god, there's someone that looks like me." But also being able to work with pros like Mackenzie and Ashaunta, and saying, "Hey, how can I help you do what you're trying to do to help grow your game?" Because I get emails for scholarships and things that people on the ground that work the day to day don't know about.
Now that she works for the LPGA, Jamie has access to a ton of resources. From scholarships, to internships, to job opportunities, and more, Jamie enjoys having the ability to make these resources accessible to others.
What is the most challenging part of the industry?
Golf is saying they're trying to diversify the game. But everything we do, from the national level, it doesn't go down to the person running the golf course. When it comes to the person who's teaching the lessons, knowing that we have these resources, I don't see it getting to them. I want people to know what they have available to grow their business and grow the game.
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women, and especially minorities, in different leadership positions?
I keep going back to the same mantra of grow the game because I can tell you that when someone sees somebody that looks like them, they're more inclined to see it as something they can do. There are times I go to my boss and I say, "I noticed on the social media that we have on LPGA amateurs has no people of color and everybody looks old," and I tell that to my director and we have this dialogue, but who else is going to tell her that? There's nobody else in my department that's going to feel comfortable enough or have that access to say to her, "Look, I'm looking at this and I can see why someone like me or my age would have no interest in joining that association." For me, when you have representation, then you can actually make effective change.
How can we get more diversity in the golf industry?
From my perspective, we just need to be more proactive about letting people know we're looking because right now, I've noticed a lot of people, especially in the upper level, that it's a buddy system. It's like, "I know this person, and I'm going to tell them about the job" and you know, the hiring manager talks to the people they know. But if everybody they know looks like them, then they're not going to be able to diversify. Being in my position, I've had the privilege to hire interns or I've had the influence to say, "Hey, I know somebody that we should hire for this position."
I even asked HR people, "Do you guys go to the Black MBA Association and post jobs on their website or go to these specific groups and recruit there?" I think the biggest recruitment that we do in the industry that I'm aware of is through the PGA WORKS Championship. It's a collegiate event and it used to be the National Minority Collegiate. All of the historically black colleges and universities' golf teams, or most of them, go to this event in Hudson Bay. It's a three day tournament, but in conjunction they have a kind of career fair, like you would see at a high school or college, but it's all the big golf industry companies. Those are the types of places you would go to really let people know, "Hey, we're looking to hire."
What are your future aspirations in the industry?
I would love to really team up with some corporations and the pros that I'm connected with and find ways to get more females and underrepresented groups in the game and give them access. Because golf to me isn't just about the sport, it's an opportunity for good paying jobs, opportunity for travel, and an opportunity for college. I would love to kind of create what I do for LPGA but really focus on those underrepresented groups, because I think we don't do that enough.
If you had any words of advice or inspiration for young women beginning a career in the golf industry, what would it be?
It would be my advice for anything: dabble in it, try it out, you know, besides just playing the game. I started out as a caddie, then I became a cashier at a golf course, then I was a ball picker, the ranger, and I really got to know the business. I think if girls really want opportunities to have leadership roles, they can't limit themselves in what they do. There's so many aspects to this game that I feel like a lot of us limit ourselves because we see mostly men working as the starter or whatever so we assume that it's not for us, but I've done them all. And I think that's what women have to do at a young age to really understand where they can thrive.