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‘Behind the Green’: Mentoring and inspiration at the PGA Championship

Sixty high school and college students gathered at Quail Hollow Club to hear how the game of golf can help them succeed in life.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 07: PGA of America Director of Youth Golf Development Bob Baldassari speaks with attendees during Beyond the Green at the 99th PGA Championship held at Quail Hollow Club on August 7, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

Editor’s Note: This report was written with information supplied via the PGA Championship.

As PGA Championship Week kicked off Monday at Quail Hollow Club, 60 high school and college students gathered there to got some up-close lessons in how the game of golf can help them succeed in life –-professionally and personally.

The students, all members of Young Black Leadership Alliance (YBLA) of Charlotte, were invited to take part in a daylong mentoring and networking event called “Beyond the Green: Turn Your Passion into a Profession.”

In addition to getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the PGA Championship, the students got to network with PGA officials, Charlotte-area executives, national sports reporters and Emmy-nominated actor Dondre Whitfield, whose TV credits include “The Cosby Show,” “All My Children,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and “Queen Sugar.”

Throughout the day, speakers emphasized the importance of learning from a mentor and identifying positive role models. Whitfield delivered the keynote address.

CHARLOTTE, NC – AUGUST 07: Actor Dondré Whitefield speaks during the Beyond the Green event at the 99th PGA Championship held at Quail Hollow Club on August 7, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

“Whatever you want to do in life, whatever you’re doing, you have to find someone who is doing what you are pursuing, so they can show you how to do what they are doing,” Whitfield told the students.

He also stressed the importance of living with a purpose.

“Acting is not a purpose,” Whitfield said.  “It is my passion. Golf is my passion. But when you do transformational work, you can change someone’s life.”

Whitfield noted the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is an example of how failure can ultimately lead to success. Jobs, who cofounded Apple, was fired by his board of directors in 1985 but was hired back several years later and led the company to unprecedented heights. Whitfield also cited his own struggles growing up with a father who spent time in prison.

“If you learn how to fail, but fail properly, you will figure out your purpose in life,” he said.

YBLA focuses on leadership development for young black men and women.  The students give back by mentoring others and by performing local and international community service.

Zerrick Collier, 19, an aerospace engineering student at Tuskegee University, said he never realized that golf could bring people closer.

“It’s about the relationship between brothers and sisters, and treating each other with class and respect,” he said.

Joshua Ussery, 17, called the experience “eye popping.”

“It’s changed my perspective of golf,” he said.

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