USGA Helps Those in Golf Industry Aspire to be Better Leaders July 20, 2018 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

When you have an uncle so passionate about golf that he sets up a hitting studio in his bedroom, it’s hard not to catch the bug.

“Everywhere around his house, there were marks on the ceiling from him swinging,” said Chris Barredo, a brand marketing manager at the USGA.

Barredo played a lot of sports growing up but ultimately chose soccer. Nevertheless, after college, he focused on becoming a better golfer.

“It’s introduced me to a lot of people and new friends,” Barredo said. “Some of the best days I’ve had were spent playing golf with family.”

With such an affection for the game, he knew he wanted to one day work in the industry. After nine years on the agency side, Barredo took a position with the USGA.

“It offered me an opportunity to grow,” he said. “I feel strongly about helping to grow the game as well.”

This past January, Barredo was one of 14 golf industry employees invited to participate in Aspire, a diversity and inclusion strategy forum for emerging leaders.

“Diversity was not about just ethnicity and color of skin, but also diversity of thought, experience, socioeconomic background and lifestyle,” he said. “It’s about bringing people of different walks of life together to think about challenges we have and how we can better address them.”

The goals of the program included empowering attendees to innovate solutions, build their professional capabilities and improve their networks.

“One thing I took away was this process in critical thinking, identifying challenges and solutions and thinking of ways to approach them,” Barredo said. “We’re so conditioned to fall into the same routines so this challenged us to think differently.”

14 golf industry employees took part in Aspire, a diversity and inclusion strategy forum for emerging leaders. (USGA)

Other participants came from Golf Channel, the PGA Tour, The PGA of America, the LPGA and elsewhere.

“The emerging leaders conference was a mind-changing experience,” said Mackenzie Mack, program director of The First Tee of Tampa. “As a group, we were able to speak candidly about the issues of the golf industry, create viable solutions to those problems and share them with people and leaders that could actually make our ideas reality.”

Unlike Barredo, Mack’s background is entirely in golf. She turned a successful junior career into a full athletic scholarship to Indiana State University, where she became the first African-American woman on the school’s team.

Mack graduated in 2010 with a marketing degree and earned her MBA a year later. At the same time, she established a nonprofit called Tee It Up with the goal of growing the game in underserved communities.

Mack went on to become an LPGA teaching professional and also got heavily involved with The First Tee, a program formed in 1997 by several of the organizations represented at the Aspire forum. It sets out to bring affordable junior golf to areas that lack youth involvement in the game.

“The conference showed me that there are many other people just as passionate as I am about improving diversity in the game and growing the game as a whole,” Mack said.