Takeaways from LPGA All Access Series — Interview: Jasmin Cunningham, PGA — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Feb. 9, 2023
Happy Golf Thursday, friends! On Monday, the LPGA released the first episode of their Drive On: LPGA All Access series. All Access is a docu-series style production, meant to showcase players and their lives beyond the course, especially with this being a year with both the International Crown and Solheim Cup on the schedule. For the entire season, we can expect monthly episodes to grant us insight on what a tournament week likes like for the best players in the world.
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“This docu-series is an excellent opportunity to continue showcasing the many stories and personalities of LPGA Tour athletes and give fans a peek into what goes into life on Tour. We’re excited to embark on this season-long production with episodes illustrating a record-breaking year for those battling for titles week in and week out on the LPGA Tour.”Brian Carroll, EVP of global media distribution and partnerships for the LPGA
If you haven’t watched episode one yet, please do so! It sits at just under 23 minutes, and it’s a great start to what I think will be an excellent addition to the LPGA’s social media channels. With all the drama of streaming services (I’m looking at you Netflix) and reports showing that younger generations are more tuned into to YouTube than any other platform — having the series exclusively on their platforms draws more traffic to the Tour itself and all it’s other doings.
Now that you’ve watched the first episode, let’s break it down.
Episode one featured three first-time winners Gemma Dryburgh, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Ashleigh Buhai at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions held a couple weeks back in Orlando, Florida.
The episode started off with Gemma. We saw her go through player registration, bits of her practice round, and we were introduced to her caddie Paul and his not-so-great dad jokes. But after the first couple of minutes or so, we didn’t see much of Gemma. Throughout the week she didn’t play spectacularly, but to me as a viewer, I would have still loved to see what the was like for her. What the conversation between her and Paul was like all week; how she bounces back in between rounds. We get a brief recap from her towards the end of the episode but it left so much up in the air. My main takeaway from Gemma’s point of view, was that I didn’t feel like I learned anything new about her. I hope in later episodes, we see her again and get more about who she is.
As the episode progresses, we’re introduced to Ashleigh Buhai, who won the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. We met Ashleigh and her husband David during her practice round for HGVTOC. David stepped up as Ashleigh’s caddie for the week — her usual caddie needed surgery and was recovering. The two shared insight on her Open win and expectations for the upcoming season.
Similarly to Gemma, we don’t see much of Ashleigh after her intro. She kind of fades into the back of the episode while other players like Leona Maguire, Nelly Korda, and Brooke Henderson were featured in the episode and were center stage for a bit.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff was the other player featured for episode one. We got to see her home life with her husband and their two dogs, being that Jodi lives in Orlando. So to able to see what a ‘hometown tournament’ looked like was interesting! Out of the three players, we definitely got to see more of Jodi’s private life, as well as her interactions with her coach Grant Waite.
The shocking bit was the brief acknowledgment of the bathroom dilemma that went on that week. It was good to see the tour mention it but again, didn’t really grant us any new insight into the situation or how it will be handled in the future.
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Ultimately, it was a great start to this new campaign. The biggest issue I think that any docu-series runs into is running time. You have to anticipate how long viewers are willing to sit and watch something and in such a fast-paced world, timing is everything.
I also think that with the episode being kind of open-ended it leaves room down the road for us to re-visit these players. The tour is so up and down, and you never know who will go on a hot streak. That being said, I really hope that this isn’t the last time we see these three players — in addition to other players who will be featured in future episodes.
Personally, as more and more of these videos are being rolled out, I also hope to see more player interactions. During the episode, Gemma talked so animatedly about being paired with Annika Sörenstam, and yet we didn’t really get to see any of their interactions. A round of 18 can take nearly five hours, I know there was a least one interaction that could’ve been thrown in the mix!
The tour does a wonderful job showcasing these athletes and their swings. We know these women are incredible golfers, but this series needs to go in the direction of humanizing these players, and creating a space where fans feel like they know them a little bit better. It doesn’t have to be a deep dive into their private lives, but things as simple as how they travel, where they stay during tournaments, down time on and off the course, club-fittings, etc would be fun to watch, and create a new sense of excitement around the LPGA and its players!
Players have spoken about how sometimes they group up and share Airbnb’s during weeks to cut down on costs. This would be a great thing to highlight. For one, it would place focus on the lengths these athletes go to support themselves while chasing their dreams. I think it could also open up the possibility of people volunteering to host players in their homes. It’s something that the Epson Tour does, but I can imagine housing is always an issues, no matter the tour.
The list of possibilities is endless, and I hope people watch episode one and give feedback! If we are vocal about what we want to see, then I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the kind of content we’ll receive. Let me know your thoughts on episode one, and things you want to see more of from the All Access series. See you next week, golf fans.
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Five at The IX: My conversation with Jasmin Cunningham, PGA
This week, I had the honor and privilege to talk to Jasmin Cunningham, PGA. Jasmin is just the eighth black woman to ever earn PGA membership. She works as a Player Development Representative at Acushnet Company, home of Titleist and Footjoy.
In 2021, the PGA of America did a profile on Jasmin as a celebration of black women in the game of golf!
In our conversation she highlights what it means to be a part of an organization like Acushnet as an alum of an HBCU. Enjoy!
Describe your role at Titleist. How did you get the position you currently have?
This is my third year at Acushnet. I started out in customer service actually. I was in that role for a year or so, and through the connections and the relationships that I’ve built within the company, I saw the player development role and just decided to apply.
I’m now in player development, and essentially that means supporting the golfers that we support on an amateur level, junior level, and a collegiate level.
What has been your main focus when trying to bring in more diversity into the golf space?
Essentially it means supporting those that support us! I get to travel around and talk about internships and career opportunities within the company, and bringing more focus to the corporate side of golf.
I travel with our talent and culture team and just be that face that people don’t get to see.
Some people think that they may not fit in, or there’s no black people that work there, but for me, being out front in the field and, you know, looking for interns and full-time associates, they kind of see it from a different perspective and I’m able to share my story and impact those to look at it differently.
What was it like being involved in a PGM program at an HBCU?
I always knew I wanted to go to HBCU. UMES (University of Maryland Eastern Shore) being that they had a golf program, was like the cherry on top really. I think it’s really important as black people to put yourself in the position to go to HBCU if, that’s your desire to do so.
To be a part of a community that’s bigger than you is special. Being around other golfers that looked like myself was such a big deal because I didn’t have a lot of that growing up. You know, even at The First Tee in Atlanta, my chapter was predominantly black, but, you know, going to playing smaller tournaments, I’m most likely the only one that’s gonna be there. So going to UMES and being open to, you know, just to see most of the program be all black people that play golf and have the same profession as as I do was just amazing.
And since graduating, we’ve started an alumni association, me and a few other alum, because that was something we never had before. We’re always looking for people to be involved, looking to raise funds and plan our alumni tournament and things like that. Schools like Penn State or a Methodist, they have like such a large alumni network, but we don’t necessarily have that because our program is still kind of new (the program started in 2008). The support is just different for us, but I still am able to be super involved within the PGM program which is nice.
Describe your golf journey. Can you recall a moment when you decided that you wanted golf to play a role in your professional life?
When I was 10, my dad put me into The First Tee of Atlanta. And it was something I didn’t wanna do because my friends weren’t playing golf. But he was like, you know, just try it out. So I tried it, and it was something that I did on Saturdays, but that’s it.
And then when I got into high school and my parents were like, “okay, I know you wanna go to school out of state, but you gotta pay for it, so you need to figure out how you’re gonna do that.” So I’m like, okay, let me look into some scholarship opportunities. And then lo and behold, all of the scholarship opportunities were available at HBCUs. It seemed right up my alley. So I started playing more, I started practicing more because I knew that I had to get out of Georgia. And I was able to go to UMES on a full scholarship.
I knew I wanted to take golf in a more serious capacity when I got to UMES because it was my major. I worked out a lot of golf courses for internships, but I knew that wasn’t the route that I wanted to take. I knew I wanted to go corporate.
I feel like a lot of change happens within these board rooms. I have so much respect for those who are teaching and out on the course, a lot of my friends that are out teaching. They’re also bringing diversity to the game as well, but from a corporate standpoint, people don’t realize that there’s nobody that looks like myself in those rooms at all.
If you were commissioner of the PGA/LPGA Tour for a whole year, what would you do differently to bring more attention to black and brown golfers?
Working in the setting that I work in at Acushnet, I work with a lot of golfers who, once they graduate from an HBCU and they want to play professionally or whatever their desires are, there’s obviously a lack of funding in that space.
A lot of golfers have to have full-time jobs, but they also have to play and practice all day, which is kind of backwards, because you’re supposed to practice and play every day if you wanna be professional. That’s just the life of a lot of these golfers that are professional. So, I think if I had to change one thing it would obviously be from like a monetary standpoint.
I would have like opportunities where golfers don’t have to worry about travel fees. They don’t have to worry about hotel, food, we’ll also cover the cost for tournament fees and things like that so that way they could help focus 100% of their time on golf.
There’s a lot of great black and brown golfers out there, but it’s just the lack of resources that they have. I think if we were able to provide more of monetary contribution, obviously they still have to do what they need to do to, to uphold that, but I think just providing a little bit more money then that gap there would help a lot of black and brown golfers get to the next level.
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