Charles Dillahunt: Studio Productions, Wagering, and Gaming Lead at PGA of America
THE DILLAHUNT STORY:
You are on the front lines via the PGA of America in terms of engaging minority involvement in golf. What letter grade would you give for the involvement and results being generated from say 10-15 years ago and those being carried out today?
My letter grade would be an A-minus because I believe there is always room for improvement. Since I arrived in 2019, there have been many key factors that result in the grade. Number one is top-down management of solving for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). From the tables of our CEO and Chief People Officer to coordinators internally, DEI has become a priority for all who are involved with the Association.
It’s truly a team effort. I’d also say leaning in from our more than 29,000 PGA of America Golf Professionals has helped tremendously. There are countless Members who are working daily to grow the game and our programming with historically unengaged communities through Make Golf Your Thing, PGA WORKS, PGA Jr. League and much more.
What lessons have been learned from past efforts that were not really as successful or comprehensive?
The top-down part is key. Leaders from all over the industry have learned in and are helping those who for years have paved the way and made groundbreaking changes, even when most weren’t looking.
They’ve not only provided seats at the table for DEI changemakers, but for those impacted by the changemakers as well, leading to greater understanding, and more financial backing where needed to support programs that can impact diverse lives.
How important is it for various initiatives to be locally led — such as One Hundred Black Men of New York — to really resonate and grow?
It’s incredibly important.
They have the audience we are trying to reach that has been historically not engaged as much as they should have been. Utilizing their authentic voice in their home community makes it easier for the PGA of America to appear trustworthy. Way more than if we were to try on our own. Their knowledge of the city and relationships with the people who make up the city is such a privilege to learn and grow from.
When speaking about our PGA of America Golf Professionals, they are the ones at the point of play impacting lives, so we’ve made sure they have access to them and their talents as well. They are an integral part in every DEI partnership we create. It is so important we involve local PGA of America Section offices as well as local PGA of America Golf Professionals to keep relationships alive, and continue growing the game when we aren’t there.
How are major corporations being engaged to support such outreach efforts?
Major corporations have come alongside us to support our inclusion efforts in a plethora of ways. Many take part in our PGA WORKS Beyond the Green at our major PGA of America championships, to engage with diverse talent and showcase career paths, as well as successful individuals at those companies that look like the students they are trying to reach.
Nike, for example, has participated for the past couple years, as well as NBC and the NBA, among others.
How does golf fundamentally get into alignment with various minorities who are not exposed to the sport and who often live in inner city areas where a meaningful golf connection is not likely to happen?
I think there are other ways to creatively get involved utilizing technology. Video games, for example, which were my first introduction to the sport, are a unique avenue to explore. New games with realistic graphics and golf courses, brands and Majors Championships like EA Sports PGA TOUR, could teach kids in a fun way how to play the sport, the different entities that exist in the sport, and the pro players, all while they have fun in an arcade or competitive environment.
In my new role, I look to explore this pathway because I’ve seen it work so well in my own life and lead to a career working on what I love to do. There are also ways to teach local P.E. teachers the game using SNAG equipment and indoor hitting nets.
That’s an easier way to reach a multitude of kids on a grand scale, hopefully leading to retention in the same way other sports see success in P.E.
How is feedback encouraged and what role does it play in future outreach efforts?
Feedback is encouraged by directly reaching out to our team. We want to hear where we are doing well and where we can improve. I mentioned earlier that DEI will take a team effort to be successful.
To know how to be successful, we have to know where we are weak and strong, so we can improve. When we receive constructive feedback, we assess it and adjust accordingly.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your daily career activities?
Helping others succeed and opening doors for them they may not have known existed.
When I can simply work hard daily to operate a program or create programs that lead to opportunities for others to get involved in the golf industry as an employee, gamer, with their small business, or by playing the game, there is no better feeling.
That’s because I know the power this industry has to positively impact lives and create healthier lifestyles like it did for me.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would make it the norm for golf course operators to offer rounds shorter than 18 holes.
I think we’d attract more people to the sport if it took less time to play. Keep 18-hole rounds available, but allow fewer holes to play from those who are new to the game or just don’t have as much time to play all 18.
You’ve got one round of golf to play — where would you play and name the three other people joining you?
Cypress Point with Joe Rogan, Jon Anik, and Daniel Cormier.