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"We just want to put a golf club in every child's hands." -Ashaunta Epps, A Perfect Swing, Inc.

Ashaunta is the CEO and Founder of A Perfect Swing, Inc. and uses her Class A LPGA teaching skills and experience in corporate America to encourage individuals to use golf as a career advancement tool. Despite not picking up a club until she began her career as an IT Operations Engineer, she immediately fell in love with the game and founded her organization. In addition to helping business professionals, she is also on a mission to put a club in every child's hands to introduce the game as an alternative, low-impact sport.

Here is her story:

What is your current position in the golf industry?

Right now, I'm a Class A member of the LPGA and I serve as the LPGA's Southeast Section Secretary. I have an organization that I started called A Perfect Swing, and that has multiple levels.

We have A Perfect Swing Golf, Inc., where I do golf lessons, we do ministry workshops, we do team building, and different things of that sort. And under that branch, we have A Perfect Swing Golf Association, and that golf association is comprised of business professionals who are really just looking to learn and enjoy the game of golf. We have various levels, so some come to us who have never picked up a club before, and there are some who have been playing for a while at the driving range, but have never been out on the course. And then we have events as well, so we have a great mixture. We get together, play golf, and really just kind of foster the networking environment.

There is also a 501c3 nonprofit organization, which is called A Perfect Swing Foundation, and that's where we look to introduce youth to golf as an alternative, low-impact sport and exercise. There's some children who can't play high-impact sports like basketball or football, be it because of different diseases, such as sickle-cell, or an artificial limb, and golf is a great opportunity for them.

In the midst of that as well, we're engaging all youth overall and really not just teaching them the game of golf, but we are helping them build and enhance their communication, networking, and leadership skills.

So, they get leadership lessons from certified leadership coaches, they have motivational speakers, and we take them on various trips, so it's really just an opportunity to enhance them as an overall person.

Did you always know you wanted to work in the golf industry?

I'm also an IT Operations Engineer for Microsoft Corporation. I do a little bit of Cloud cyber security and service management in that space.

As a child, I was a basketball player. At the age of 12, I ended up playing around and got my hip popped out, and it was misdiagnosed. When they finally found it, it was out of place and started growing out of place, so they pinned it back in place that left me in a body cast for six months, and after that I couldn't play basketball anymore. That was really devastating for me. And I went through a period of depression in the sense that I was unhappy with myself; I felt useless. But the great thing is that my family, their encouragement, and their love kind of got me through that process.

I went on and got my computer science degree in college. Six months out of college, I was a team leader and a year out, I was a manager. The reality is, I was a young woman in an IPC, which is male-dominated, I was also a minority, and I was 23 while everyone else was in their 50s. It was kind of an out-of-the-box experience. I had to figure out creative ways to kind of stay involved and up to date with what was going on.

Ashaunta says that even though she didn't smoke, she would take a smoke break with everyone else simply because she knew people talked when they smoked. However, she soon discovered there was another way to get involved.

One day I heard them talking about a change that happened in the office, and when I asked one of the guys, "Hey, so how did you know that they were going to make that change?" and he said, "Oh they mentioned that while we were playing golf on Friday," I was like, "Oh, I guess I have to play golf." But because I couldn't play basketball anymore, I made an assumption that I couldn't play golf. So, I asked my doctor about it and he said that I can try it. I actually ended up having a hip replacement and reconstruction surgery, and it was at that time that he said I could try it, so I tried it and I could do it. And it that's how I knew it was feasible alternative because it was something that I was good at and it was low-impact.

While practicing at the range one day, Ashaunta reflected on the fact that she didn't get introduced to golf until after college. She realized the importance of introducing the game of golf to the youth.

So that's the whole goal of A Perfect Swing Foundation. We just want to put a golf club in every child's hands. We don't know what it's going to do for them and we don't know that they are even going to like it, so we want to find out and we want them to find out, because they may love it and it may be the exact thing that they need at that particular time. But if they never get that opportunity to get introduced, then it doesn't matter. So, we want to make sure they get introduced.

When did you decide to get your LPGA Class A and start A Perfect Swing?

I actually started A Perfect Swing Golf first and I wanted to make my organization credible. When it comes to me as a business woman, one of the keys, I think, to having a successful business is having meaningful influence in the industry. And for me, it's being a part of learning my craft. One of my mentors was an LPGA member and because of how well I hit the ball, she said, "You know, you should join the LPGA." This allowed me to be amongst the industry from a game perspective but it also allowed me to be more valuable and amongst valuable resources that can be communicated to our community.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I think the most rewarding part of working with the youth is when I see that they actually really are having fun playing the game because it's a sport that is not typically seen on an everyday stage in the African American community. So them engaging and loving the sport is something that really, really touches my heart. I love to see them execute well, I love to see them feel proud of themselves. You can go out and try to get to a level of success and when they feel that level of success and I see the smile on their face, that is the joy that I get. You know, whether they end up playing the sport or not, it at least becomes an opportunity for them.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in the industry?

I think the challenge for me is that I wasn't one of those who grew up understanding the golf industry all my life. I'm new to the game so people may, you know, talk about legends of the game and sometimes I might have to go look some of them up because I wasn't watching. I've heard stories about how, you know, people had had challenges kind of breaking into the golf industry, so my focus has always been the people around me.

I will say when I first started A Perfect Swing in Charlotte, one of the challenges was when I first started going to a particular golf course, I would share with them that I was starting an organization and I didn't get a really good response. It was almost like I was kind of a pain in their side. I don't know if some golf pros or golf courses have preconceived notions, whether it's about women, whether it's about minorities, or whether it's about groups, but whatever the case may be, I try to take the high road even when it hurts. There can be situations where you want to yell right back at somebody but you can't do that, you know? Understanding that it's a business and keeping that business-first mindset has saved a lot of situations for me because that's kind of how I take it.

How do you feel like A Perfect Swing is benefitting the golf industry?

I feel like I'm benefitting the golf industry or I'm growing the game because for one reason, I don't look like a typical athlete, so I provide a level of comfort for others. I'm also a down-to-earth person, so I'm easy to talk to and very approachable, so those factors are a part of it.

But as it pertains to growing the game, with A Perfect Swing, we look to make you feel comfortable on the course. We don't care where you take your golf lessons or even if you don't take golf lessons, you can come to A Perfect Swing and we will help you migrate onto the course. We will be teaching you the rules of the game, we are helping you understand the etiquette, and you're playing and learning and having fun with people that are at the same skill level that you are or willing to help you through the process. That, in turn, allows more people or encourages more people to play golf, and that affects the bottom line of the golf industry.

For people who have always wanted to play golf, we have a non-intimidating environment that they can come to and they can literally enjoy themselves while still learning and taking that intimidation factor out of it. And not only that, because we play at multiple courses around the city, we are contributing to not just one person's financial bottom line, we are putting money into golf courses in various communities.

How do you think we can get more women and minorities working in the golf industry?

You can get more more women working in leadership positions by really socializing and sharing that golf industry companies are open to having them. Sometimes it's as simple as adding women or people of color on a flyer. If you walk into a room and all the flyers or the posters have white males on them, that's the statement that you're making. Or even if you have all males on it, black and white males, that is your statement to women.

I think it's about making a conscious effort to recruit in those places where you know that type of talent exists. For example, if you're looking for more women, or more educated professional women in the industry, there are tons of women golf associations or black women golf associations in the country. You can look them up online and send your advertisement to them.

If you have a distribution list of 10 companies or 10 organizations that you sent your job posting to for the last 20 years and you haven't gotten any women or minority responses, then you can still keep sending those, but you need to change and add a couple of others. Add those groups that are focused on those individuals, that are focused on professional women and minorities, because that is where you're going to find the talent that you're looking for. And the reality is, you're not looking for just anybody. You know you want them to be interested in golf, you want them to be playing at a certain level because there's a test they have to pass, and for sure those type of women exist in these organizations.

What are your future aspirations in the golf industry?

My aspiration is to continue to grow A Perfect Swing. I'm currently holding the Southeast section secretary role of the LPGA, so, just continuing to put myself in a position of influence so that I can help with some of the decision-making power for the LPGA. You know, I have a thing that I say that you can't make changes from the outside.

If you had any words of inspiration or advice for young women beginning their careers in the golf industry or considering going into your field, what would they be?

My advice would be to find your niche. And when you find your niche, I think that's where things develop for you. There are so many paths you can do in the golf industry, but if you understand where your target area is, it will help you out. Whether you want to get more women into golf, or you want to get more youth into golf, or if you're looking to introduce as many youth as you can to the game of golf, or if you're looking to find the next tour pro, it's about identifying an issue. Are you looking for a minority? Are you looking for business professionals? And what happens is that once you start down the path of a particular niche, you come in contact with so many other things, opportunities, and possibilities that you can make adjustments.

One of my mentors, Bishop David, said that function brings on formation. Oftentimes, we stumble because we don't have the function in mind. But when you identify your niche, you develop a function. Just knowing that when you develop that niche and that function, as you function, formation will come. You'll see that you enjoy doing this better than that, or that you prefer to be here instead of there, but you have to start somewhere. So, just developing a target niche, going after that, but also at the same time considering and being open to all the great possibilities that you might come in contact with in the golf industry because there's plenty. I would even say to be patient with yourself and look to identify the areas that you really, really enjoy.

Thank you so much to Ashaunta for sharing her story. I think we can all agree that she is making a huge difference in the golf industry from all perspectives. Ashaunta's mission to put a club in every child's hands and also help business professionals use golf as a networking tool for career advancement not only helps people of all ages succeed, she is also creating an incredible community and cause that will continue to grow and touch lives. If you want to follow Ashaunta, A Perfect Swing is on Instagram (@aperfectswinggolf, @ashauntaepps) and Facebook. Remember to follow @golf.hers on Instagram and like the new Facebook page! Subscribe below and share this story with a friend!

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