PGA Respects Power Of The Pen, Removes Horton Smith’s Name From Award

The PGA of America announced that it is renaming its Horton Smith Award, effective immediately.

The newly named PGA Professional Development Award will be presented during the PGA’s annual meeting in Hartford, Conn., Oct. 27-30. The award honors PGA members for outstanding contributions to professional education.

Smith, a two-time Masters winner and president of the PGA from 1952-’54, was a staunch supporter and enforcer of the organization’s Caucasian-only clause, which was part of the PGA’s bylaws from 1934-’61.

That is a dark history in the PGA that can’t be forgotten. The “whites only” clause isn’t on the books anymore, but the organization hasn’t done much to make amends for the opportunities that they denied so many Black people during that period of oppression.

“In renaming the Horton Smith Award, the PGA of America is taking ownership of a failed chapter in our history that resulted in excluding many from achieving their dreams of earning the coveted PGA Member badge and advancing the game of golf,” PGA President Suzy Whaley said in a statement. “We need to do all we can to ensure the PGA of America is defined by inclusion. Part of our mission to grow the game is about welcoming all and bringing diversity to the sport.

In an open letter penned by Wendell Haskins, a former Black PGA executive, he recounted his work there and the systemic racism that hindered and marginalized many of his contributions. Haskins also asserted Horton Smith was “a racist.”

The PGA has long been considered one of the last bastions of white privilege and elitism, continuing culture of keeping Black golfers, entrepreneurs and employees on the outside looking in.  

With this name removal, the PGA is taking a first step towards acknowledging its cultural flaws and committing to more diversity and sensitivity when dealing with people of color. Smith’s experiences gave you a glimpse into how much needs to change at the executive level. The plantation mentality has to go. Diversity on the links also needs to improve. There are just three African-Americans ranked in the Top 200 on the PGA Tour; Tiger Woods, Harold Varner and Cameron Champ

As part of the letter, Haskins, now the chief marketing officer for The Professional Collegiate League, included 11 recommendations on how the PGA could improve its culture. Renaming the Horton Smith Award was one of them. Wrote Haskins: “He was a racist.”

Board: Create a new process for your board selection or structure that will require diversity. Your current process is not designed to be inclusive or welcome any women or minorities to your board in the foreseeable future. When Suzy Whaley’s tenure is over, it will lead to a future in which women and minorities likely will be underrepresented. Establish a Bill/Renee Powell Independent Board Seat for an independent board director that is designated to an African American board member. Inclusion begins when people of color are consistently contributing to your highest level of decision making. It’s time to rethink your process. It is not diverse or inclusive of black people. Understand that not seeing color in the room is a problem. And seeing one person of color in a room is also a problem. 

Show Some Atonement: Seth and Suzy your letters state that humanity stems from “Kindness, faith and hope” and that our country was conceived and built upon the concept of equality. That is true for white people. Black people were not even considered humans in early America so those tenets did not apply to us. Black people have to fight for basic human rights and civil rights continuously. The PGA of America’s Caucasian only clause wouldn’t even allow Blacks to play golf until 1962. You have to acknowledge these facts and show some kindness, faith and action to make golf a better industry. 

Lean In: Support some majority Black events, actually attend them and participate without leaving early. Invite more Black people to your own events and develop more understanding of Black culture. The Original Tee Golf Classic is a good one but the company continuously passed on the invitation. You’d be surprised at who you might meet.

Hire Black Executives at HQ: Hire black executives or “a” black executive that controls a budget, has hiring power and has the authority to make decisions. 

Compensate Your Minority Employees Fairly: There aren’t any Black employees at the PGA of America HQ that earn a six-figure salary (with the exception of possibly one). 

Reinstate the PGA Post Graduate Diversity Program: This program attracted more Black people to become PGA professionals. Bring it back. 

Have Your Stated Company Values Match Your Actions: Diversity work is very difficult and virtually impossible for diversity executives to be successful when organizations don’t fully support it at the CEO/President level. It is also imperative that the organization be willing to make courageous and often difficult decisions that support the values of diversity and inclusion. Your black employees are often covering for you and preaching that things are getting better, advocating on behalf of the company. When you fail to uphold fundamental principles for any reason in the face of adversity your advocates look foolish and their credibility is diminished if not stripped completely. 

Tie Diversity Into Performance: Diversity requires setting goals, creating benchmarks and accountability. If there are no consequences for not meeting certain goals and expectations around diversity it’s pointless. 

Rename The Horton Smith Award – He was a racist. 

Establish ERG’s and MRG’s: Form Employee Resource Groups and Member Resource Groups and have your district Directors and PGA HQ leadership meet with them quarterly. Listen to what they have to say and what their recommendations are in order to improve race relations throughout your sections. 

Be Willing to Let Go of Bigots and Racist Members: The PGA of America was founded with racist and non-inclusive principles. There are still members who want to protect those doctrines. Don’t hesitate to take a stand and let them go.

The piece reached the eyes of PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, who spoke to Haskins for the first time. “I had never met Wendell, so I reached out to him and had a two-hour video chat.” Waugh told Golf’s Digest. I listened carefully to his ideas and took them to heart in our ongoing efforts to make the PGA of America and the game of golf more inclusive and diverse. I appreciate the opportunity to share views, and we thank him for the dialogue.”

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.