Photo courtesy of Jeff Bertch and Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, FL

There’s no doubt golf is a global game, but does the game at all levels really reflect our globe? Our sport is unique in that its leaders are not only famous players, but also titans of industry. The latter of those two definitely fall under heavy scrutiny when it comes to the inclusion of golf and certainly even sports in general. This past Monday, the day after the Honda Classic concluded with Matt Jones’ winning putt, an influential tradition took place in Juno Beach, Florida. 

Manifested from the imagination of Donald Ross in 1929, Seminole Golf Club was created alongside the stunning picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean. A haven for the world’s elite, and like so many others was a place only a select few could enjoy. As a lifelong ambassador for the game, I tend to see the big picture when it comes to institutions such as this. Just because it is private doesn’t mean it cannot serve a purpose in the grand scheme. For example, in 2020 when times were at their darkest, Seminole did show us a beacon of hope. 

Leadership is a behavior, not a role.

When the world needed leaders most last spring some stepped up and made a statement. Remember TaylorMade’s Driving Relief? A made-for-television event that displayed the skills of four world class competitors. On that day when Dustin, Rickie, Matt and Rory made 17 birdies together and raised over 5.57 million for charity, they needed a place to play. Who hosted them? Seminole Golf Club. I imagine anyone would have liked to, but it takes resources to pull off an event like that during the middle of a global pandemic. 

Fast forward to this past Monday’s tournament. When the global business leaders host a seismic event, it makes a statement. If we are going to change the game, they will need to be role models for that transformation. I realize Monday was not a complete paradigm shift, but if you take a step back and look at the entire field, we see progress. There were multiple generations, races and genders playing.  From Beth Daniel to Jessica Korda, or Gary Player to the last two US Amateur Champions who recently graduated college; Andy Ogletree and Ty Strafaci. Member Larry Fitzgerald played and Harold Varner III just a couple tee times after. 

One of the most brilliant stories of the 2021 campaign has been the increased notoriety of the APGA Tour. One of their stars is Kamaiu Johnson. If you’re not familiar with his story, I implore you to read up on the young African American mini-tour star. Having just come off a sponsor’s invitation to compete in the Honda Classic, Johnson followed up his PGA Tour pairing with a tee time on Monday at Seminole.  

These are small steps, but they are being taken by significant leaders. Pete Bevacqua and Seth Waugh are sports industry role models and member participants on Monday. As a collective group, they and other industry icons are making decisions to support increased progressive thinking in our game. This change in behavior represents a new dynamic in leadership. One that makes Monday’s story a seminal moment. 

Keith Stewart

Keith Stewart is a PGA Professional and storyteller. He has built a unique marketplace perspective through two decades in the golf industry. As a professional, he has worked at many prestigious clubs on the east coast, most notably, Isleworth Country Club from 1998 to 2003, home to Tiger Woods at the time. Currently, Keith uses his talent as the host of the ProShow on ESPN radio across the New York City market. His expertise in the industry blended with a comedic pop-culture filter entertains his listeners. He's a 5-time award winning PGA Professional who brings credibility to any discussion covering the world of sports. Keith resides in Hopewell, NJ with his wife Laurie and their two kids Owen and Abbey. He's a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and an avid golfer.