Taking risks, embracing creativity and promoting a culture of inclusion were among the many inspiring conversations sparked by Women’s Leadership Day at the 2019 KIA Classic in Carlsbad, CA.
The motivational event, which brought together 250 women from across the country, kicked off with Ricki Lasky, LPGA Chief Tournament Business Officer, who announced the organization’s brand repositioning #DriveOn, the newly adopted mantra celebrating generations of women (past, present, and future) who pave the way for better opportunities for all.
“#DriveOn is deeply rooted in golf, but it’s so much bigger and broader than that,” Lasky said in her opening speech. “To be a driver is to be a change agent—a driver of progress, inclusivity and positivity. We salute the drivers who came before, and we encourage the drivers who will follow. We drive on with passion, style, courage, and we do it like no one else can.”
It’s no coincidence the re-brand comes just in time for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur: a historic milestone in the game marking the first time a women’s tournament will be held at the iconic Georgia club. The event marks a monumental step toward inclusion and equal representation in women’s golf.
In a video message from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, he stated, “For 70 years, women have been driving on to create better opportunities for the women that will follow them. We felt it was time to position our unique group of athletes, teachers, and leaders exactly as they are—standing on the shoulders of the women who came before them and fully prepared to put the future on their shoulders.”
Women’s Leadership Day, presented by Servant Leadership Institute and adidas Golf, was a shining example of the #DriveOn mantra, representing women of all races, age groups and industries—from entrepreneurs and leaders in higher education, to interior designers and corporate executives.
The first panel discussion, hosted by the LPGA Women’s Network, included Courtney McHugh, senior director of global brand marketing for adidas Golf, and Suzanne LaTour, GolfTec franchise owner and SVP of investments for Raymond James. LaTour shared her experiences of getting into golf and how she uses life lessons from the game in her career almost every day.
“When I give a talk about business in golf, I say there are three magnifiers in business: alcohol, money, and golf,” she said, which garnered laughs and applause from the audience. “You cannot hide your true self in four hours on the golf course. It’s a great way to interview someone.”
When asked about inclusion in golf, LaTour encouraged the audience to be open-minded when playing with newer golfers.
“I have found so much fun and life experience golfing with newer or older golfers out there, I encourage people to just be kind, and you’ll be surprised at the amazing life stories you hear,” she said. “Just get out there, play with someone new, and enjoy it.”
The morning’s conversation of golf, business, and inclusion from current distinguished businesswomen was the perfect segue into the next panel, which featured the up-and-coming generation of women who represent different areas of the golf industry.
“When we talk about creativity, it doesn’t seem like you can really be creative without taking risks,” said Amanda Balionis, CBS sports reporter who moderated the afternoon panel. “It’s almost like you have to be prepared to fail at least a couple times if you’re going to push for change and create change.”
Creativity and self-expression were the underlying themes for the discussion on how to break barriers in women’s golf, which included LPGA Tour players Jessica Korda and Danielle Kang as panelists. Social media influencers Nikki B and Tania Tare were also on the panel and discussed their experience navigating the rapidly-evolving world of digital media, as well as how it can grow the game, particularly among women’s golf.
“For us, social media is about spreading awareness in the sport,” Tare said. “When I was first introduced to golf as a kid, I was resistant because I only saw the stereotypical country club image and that made me uncomfortable—it’s not who I am. It’s great for us [influencers] to show people there are other aspects of golf everyone can enjoy.”
The women discussed how it takes a village to create change in the golf industry and beyond—meaning mutual respect and support of each other to spread the same #DriveOn message through their unique platforms.
“My number one hope [for women’s golf] down the road is equal respect,” Kang said. “I don’t want to be asked ‘what’s your next tournament’. I want [golf fans] to do the same amount of research on LPGA players as PGA Tour players, because we are golfers at the top level playing for the best tour in the world, and we just want equal respect.”