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April 05, 2017

Five Questions: Earnie Ellison

Since 1997 Earnie Ellison, a retired executive with PGA of America and now running Ellison Consulting Group, a sports diversity and inclusion consultancy, has been actively engaged and committed to increasing the participation of minorities and women in the business and game of golf.

 

Why are you so passionate about inclusion within golf?

It is very simple and yet complex.  There are tremendous opportunities for greater inclusion of minorities and women as recreational golfers as well as in the business of golf; all professional career choices to include tour players, suppliers, manufacturers, sales, leadership, direct and indirect service providers, you name it! With exception of TV golf, golf is a well-kept secret as to its relevance and accessibility. Speaking from experience, when many minorities and women assess choices, golf is the last if at all on their radar screen.  According to Golf 2020, annually golf is nearly a $70 billion industry, with a total impact on the U.S. economy estimated at $167.8 billion, confirming there are tremendous opportunities for inclusion.  I am convinced that with greater assertiveness from the numerous golf companies and establishment executives, compounded with minorities and women being more aggressive to search out pathways to become a part of the golf industry, we will have much more success with inclusion. 

 

Do you feel that the industry shares your passion?

When I listen to the conversations, yes. When I look at the actions, I'm not so sure. In my opinion, the gap is because the true impact of inclusion is not being measured, thus there is little urgency for institutional inclusion.  It’s so easy to look around the golf industry and come to the conclusion that there are purposely limited positions for people of color and women.  We can’t continue to be comfortable with a limited number of minorities and women in key positions or playing the tours, or members of associations. If my passion was shared broadly across the industry, we would be having a totally different conversation.

 

What should be done by the industry, women and minorities to accelerate greater inclusion?

The industry:  Understand the significance and business growth opportunities that can be derived through well thought-out diversity and inclusion strategies.  Embrace inclusion as a strategic business necessity.  Minorities and women:  Realize that one can have a wonderful and financially rewarding career within the golf industry that can offer a great quality of life for you and your family just as one can have in any other industry.  Gain more knowledge about the golf industry, especially for careers and business opportunities.

 

Year 2020 is a target year for golf.  Through your crystal lens, what do you see as it relates to ethnicity and gender parity within golf?

Hopefully more people of color in key leadership and key staff positions.  I often hear we want golf to look more like America, generally referring to recreational players.  Hopefully by the end of 2020 golf would have adopted many of the policies and practices that contributed to help the non- golf corporations, businesses and the public sector to be more inclusive.  Transference of this knowledge will help accelerate change toward great diversity and inclusion throughout this wonderful industry.  

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