Out of the thousands of former and current LPGA members, only eight have been black.  Some LPGA officials have plans to change that.  

“We know we have a long way to go… and we also know change won’t happen overnight,” said Roberta Bowman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. “But by taking a systematic approach, and thinking [about]  diversity, racial diversity at every level and opportunity in the player development pipeline, we think is the key for sustainable results.”

Originally played in the 1700’s, the game of golf has been popular for centuries.  It was first introduced in Scotland, where Queen Mary decided that she loved the sport and ordered for the first golf course to be built.  She failed, however, to include one detail.   The golf course, widely known as St. Andrews Links, was exclusively dedicated to men and barred women from attaining membership.  While the decision to create the first golf course was critical to the game’s widespread success, it was also detrimental to the future of inclusivity within the culture of the sport.  Had St. Andrews Links included both men and women from its establishment, it would have set precedence for future diversity and inclusivity standards in golf. 

While it is unknown exactly how the game traveled to the United States, many believe that Scottish immigrants introduced it sometime around 1788.  As golf grew in popularity, exclusive American golf clubs became more prominent.  For decades, these clubs, like their predecessors, completely excluded women and people of color.  

Lack of hope for women in golf remained until two centuries later, when the first golf tournament for women was held in 1811 in Scotland.  The first golf tournament for women in America did not occur until 1894.  In 1917, the United States Golf Association incorporated a Women’s Tournament Committee which was major for the success of American women in golf.  The committee overlooked all USGA women’s golf tournament rules.  After this committee was created, female golfers began to thrive on their newfound support system.  

In 1891, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club opened in New York and became the first golf club in the United States to welcome female golfers.  The United States Women’s Amateur Championship was held at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1900.  While this club was a step in the right direction for improving gender equality, other issues of diversity and inclusion remained.  The golf club, for example, was named after the Shinnecock Native American tribe because it was partially built on their reservation.  For decades, members of the Shinnecock Native American community did not support the decision to use their sacred land without permission.  

During an interview conducted by USA Today, the Shinnecock tribe’s spokesperson stated, ‘“We’ve been beaten over the head since 1640, when they (colonists) came with a plan to take our land.  But are still here.  No matter what, we are still here.’’’

In recent years, decisions have been made in efforts to rectify past injustices.  The USGA made a move to honor Native American heritage in golf with the Oscar Bunn golf facility, named after the first Native American professional golfer.  This was a step in the right direction for inclusivity and acknowledging excellence within the Shinnecock community. 

Gender equality was further normalized in 1950 with the founding of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Roberta Bowman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer and former leader of the diversity, inclusion, and equity strategy for the LPGA, offered her thoughts on the LPGA’s gender equality accomplishments. 

“As the world’s longest-running women’s professional sports organization, we are a proof point that being intentional around diversity really works,” Bowman said.  “Ten years ago, fifteen percent of new players in golf were female, today that’s closer to thirty-five percent and we’re very proud of building a pipeline of women and girls in golf.  We also are golf’s global golf tour where today we have women from fifty different countries playing golf. ”  

She added that the organization is being “as deliberate and intentional about racial diversity as we’ve been about gender diversity,” helped by other efforts such as  Black Girls Golf and Women of Color Golf which seek to introduce more diversity in both the player and teacher level.

“[These efforts are] starting at the youngest levels,” Bowman said.