So often, we’ve heard of the “official meetings” not really happening until attendees have left the boardroom and headed to the golf course. Unfortunately, most women are not invited for a variety of reasons, the most prevalent being the assumption that they don’t know how to play the game.
This is where Tiffany Fitzgerald and Black Girls Golf come in. Black Girls Golf is the largest non-competitive membership-based golf club for African American women with over 3K members across 27 states and seven countries.
In addition to the membership component, Fitzgerald created the Black Girls Golf Foundation for Diversity and Inclusion to create a more diverse and inclusive pipeline into careers in the golf industry.
Through a partnership with Clemson University, the BGG Foundation hosts teen golfers from all over the U.S. for a weeklong immersive experience on the school’s campus.
What piqued your interest in golf?
I was working in corporate America and on Fridays when it was nice, you could roll a bowling ball through the office because no one was there. That’s when I found out they were going to play golf together.
Now, what often happens on the golf course, is the meeting after the meeting and if you’re not at the meeting after the meeting, you miss all of the discussions and all of the changes.
What I found happening to me was a project would totally change course from what I was working on because they talked about it on the golf course and by the time the next project meeting came around, everyone knew what was going on except for me because I never got the invitation to play.
They assumed I didn’t play and they weren’t wrong because I didn’t, so I decided they weren’t going to have another meeting without me.
So tell us about that first experience playing golf.
My first experience with golf sucked, it was horrible because I grew up in the ‘hood, I’m from Oakland, [California], and golf was not around me. I didn’t know people who played golf, I didn’t know anything about golf.
This wasn’t going to stop me though, I went to Kmart and got my very first set of golf clubs and because I didn’t live far from a golf course, I went up there and asked who was in charge of teaching people how to play.
The class had like 15 people in it so, of course, I wasn’t learning anything. I was definitely better than when I started but when I went out to play I was swinging and missing, I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t know the etiquette. I just felt like a fish out of water, and as a Black woman in corporate America, you’re already challenged with having to be yourself and having to try to fit in.
I felt super intimidated during those first experiences because I wasn’t seeing anybody else on the courses who looked like me and so I vowed never to play again.
It was a really bad experience but golf kept coming up — employee golf tournaments, my job would say they sponsored a golf course and needed someone to play — so I just forced myself to get out there anyway and after I began to learn more about the game and started seeing some progress in getting better, I was hooked.
Is that when you created Black Girls Golf?
Pretty much, Black Girls Golf was created in 2011 after spending several years in corporate America watching the many opportunities that were made available to my male colleagues who played golf.
I needed to build better relationships with my male colleagues and superiors at work. But how would I do that? Golf was the answer. As I became a more experienced golfer, I noticed how few Black women were involved in the sport so I decided to create a safe space for us to learn the game and build the confidence to get out there and play.
Tell us your goal in creating the Black Girls Golf Foundation.
My goal with the foundation is to create a more diverse pipeline of candidates for careers in the golf industry. Golf is almost a $70 billion industry and Black women make up less than 1 percent of the industry’s workforce.
For more in information on Black Girls Golf, please visit their website, www.blackgirlsgolf.net.