The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, May 7, 2020
Movers and shakers in a global pandemic — Interview with Jess McAlister — Must-click links in women's golf
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Movers and Shakers in a Global Pandemic
I recently finished one of Ryan Holiday’s books, The Obstacle is the Way, and something he talks about at the start is all the businesses that have sprung up during an economic crisis or a depression. I was shocked to see the names of Disney, UPS, Coors Light, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Charles Schwab all falling into that category. What an enlightening look into success and controlling what you can control.
“Those who survive it, survive because they took things day by day—that’s the real secret.” (Excerpt from The Obstacle is the Way)
This is a lot of us these days: taking it day by day. We can’t control what’s closed, what’s open, who wears a face mask and who doesn’t, how long this pandemic will carry on, if we’ll have to bear a second wave, if the panic curve is slowing down, flattening or speeding up. But we can control what we do with our time! And how we wake up everyday knowing much of the world and life is out of our control.
Today I wanted to talk about some of these ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Disney’ kind of people in the golf industry. I wanted to highlight who these people are, what they are doing and how they are shining in the middle of a global crisis. As Ryan Holiday alludes to, these movers and shakers are surviving. They are creating their legacies right now — defining how they’ll be remembered.
The first person I want to mention is PGA of America President Suzy Whaley. Being a PGA employee, I have had a front row seat to her leadership over these last couple months. I can’t really talk about her without being biased given I work for the PGA, so hopefully you can let me off the hook for this one! She has risen to the occasion by holding weekly updates for PGA Staff and PGA Members along with our CEO Seth Waugh. She’s been composed, thoughtful, empathetic and understanding—all while being realistic and facing the harsh realities of the hit many golf facilities are taking right now.
Whaley has moved into a more localized approach now that, depending where you are on the country, you can start reopening facilities/golf courses. Part of how the PGA is structured is that we have 41 PGA Section Offices that oversee regions throughout the United States. These offices help create the the network of communication and community for the 25 million amateur golfers and nearly 29,000 PGA Members throughout the country. One thing Suzy promised when she was elected President is that she will be there and show up for golfers; she’s absolutely done that.
The next person is the one and only ‘LPGA Commish’ Mike Whan. I will forever sing that man’s praises and I know the LPGA Players love him too—which speaks for itself. Having to cancel and postpone events is not an easy job nor would it be a fun one; but he’s handled the last couple months with grace and the utmost concern for the people who make his tour go: the players first and foremost, the fans, the volunteers. He’s been in front of decisions and has been clear about why these decisions were made. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve seen a negative thing said about him ever and especially now. I hope the LPGA is lucky enough to have him around for many, many more years. And I know he’s the man for the job when it comes to getting the LPGA to the other side of this pandemic.
Outside of industry leaders like Suzy and Mike, there are a couple others who have stood out to me. Because most of golf has been consumed through a screen or participated in virtually as of late, it’s worth talking about the people bringing us amazing golf content right now. When we can’t play ourselves or watch golf live, we can get our ‘golf fix’ through social media. For me personally, tournament reruns just don’t get my blood pumping. I know the outcome and that takes away the fun. Because there isn’t a whole lot to breakdown, highlight or talk about in terms of professional golf news, it ultimately comes down to finding something to talk about to stay relevant. There are two women that come to mind who have done this.
They are the Disneys and the LinkedIns of today because they are taking advantage of extra down time to hustle a little harder. These women are Hally Leadbetter (Golf Digest, GOLFTV) and Jess McAlister (Co-Founder of Digital Golf Collective).
All I’m going to tell you about Hally is to please follow her on Instagram: @hallylead. She is not only hilarious, but has started a series called “Not much, you?” where she brings on various players, golf industry professionals and influencers just to chat, with some questions from fans scattered in. That’s the live content we all want and need! The second person, who is wildly impressive, is Jess McAlister. She recently launched a company called Digital Golf Collective, which is a full-service marketing and talent brand management agency. She is incredibly connected in the influencer space working with accounts like @pgamemes and her co-founders brand @golfballed. She is the brain behind a lot of fun content in golf.
To give you an even better idea of what she’s doing with Digital Golf Collective, and how business has actually picked up for her lately, she’s included as the interview today. I probably could have talked to her for hours as she has a wealth of experience in the marketing and brand space. It honestly feels like she’s just getting started—and that the direction her company is going is changing the game in golf. In a lot of ways, she’s going against the status quo (conservative, stuffy) to make golf cool and fun. For both of these women, and for Suzy and Mike, they all have one thing in common despite vastly different jobs in golf: a positive perspective, which is opening doors to new opportunities and special legacies.
This Week in Women’s Golf
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Back-to-back hole in ones on the same hole? This couple really did that. (via PGA.com)
PGA Professional Kasi Hornback is utilizing heritage to enhance the golf experience. (via PGA.com)
This Symetra Tour player returned to her career as a nurse during this nationwide pandemic. (via Detroit Press)
South Korean women’s golf major to be played without fans next week. (via Yonhap News Agency)
Golf industry launches Back2Golf initiative to reopen golf courses in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control. (via Golf Digest)
LPGA Girls Golf surprised by LPGA Founder Shirley Spork. (via LPGA.com)
When trying to get settled in a new home during a pandemic, LPGA player Lindsey Weaver ran into her fair share of problems. (via Toledo Blade)
LPGA looking at hybrid and wraparound seasons. (via Golf Channel)
Georgia Hall unsure if she’ll play in any US events this year amidst COVID-19 concerns. (via Sky Sports)
Maria Fassi opens up about the shanks ahead of playing in a mini tour event. (via Golfweek)
Michelle Wie on pregnancy, cravings and her future on the LPGA. (via Golfweek)
Danielle Kang rebuilding her form in quarantine. (via Sports Illustrated)
Despite other tours on pause, the Cactus Tour hasn’t stopped. (via Golf Digest)
The annual Women’s Golf Day is having a virtual celebration on June 2nd. Events around the globe were postponed until September 1. (via womensgolfday.com)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Jess McAlister
Jess McAlister (pictured on the right), one of the movers and shakers in golf as I touched on above, gave me 45 minutes of her time to record a podcast and share her expertise in the industry with me. We talked about the start of her career, how she found golf, some of the current influencers and projects she’s working on now among many other fun things! I took away so much from our conversation—and hope you will too.
I. Can you give us a quick introduction on who you are and what you do? I’m Jess McAlister and I am the co-founder of a golf marketing agency called Digital Golf Collective. We’re a full service agency around talent and brand management; we work with a lot of equipment brands, apparel brands, agencies and tournament organizations—and also quite the market share in the golf industry when it comes to trick shot artists, content creators, athletes and media personalities. We also help support some players when it comes to their brand deals outside of golf.
II. How did you get started in your career? I’ve been a workaholic since I flew out of the womb. I started working at 15 in sales. I worked for a magazine and a local marketing agency in San Diego and really fell in love with the partnership side of things and sponsorships and really bringing people together. I started marketing and advertising in college (by the way I didn’t want to go to college but I did) and moved to LA after college with a job in brand marketing and sponsorships. I helped launch Blackberry once upon a time when that existed at Coachella. I used to do events at music festivals and that lead me into the celebrity space and into the branded partnerships side of things before social media…I got to understand both sides when it came to the talent and the agency/brand side. I fell in love with the formula of humanizing brand with talent.
III. What are some projects you’re working on now? Digital Golf Collective was very busy at the beginning of the year, and now with COVID, it’s like the rug getting yanked out from everybody. We launched in September and jumped into this year with some awesome clients like the USGA helping with their social campaigns….Medterra CBD which we love so much and their product actually works; we’re trying to get rid of the negative stigma for CBD and helping them advertise the healthy benefits of CBD…we also bridge the gap with brand clients like Topgolf and the talent they want to bring in…AT&T for one of our influencers Tisha Alyn…Callaway Apparel who just launched their spring/summer line…Cobra Golf…Puma Golf…We do a lot of really cool crossover collaborations with our talent and brands. And now we’ve been running some short-term plans during this pandemic for some smaller companies.
IV. How do you decide whether or not a brand/company/talent is a good fit for Digital Golf Collective? We’re always open to having conversations. With having just launched officially in September, we went out the gate with clients. We weren’t looking for clients. The validation was when we did launch, it was this flood of people which was so cool. My mom told me I can do anything but you can’t do everything because I want to do all the things all the time. I have to remember that daily. It’s tough because we work with a core group of 12 people and they are all very diverse. They get lumped all as influencers, but they all offer different things with different skillsets. Our clients have to push creative boundaries. With social media so saturated now, you can’t just be someone who plays golf and takes highly edited photos. That doesn’t work anymore…Being able to offer more from a creative side, from a personality side, is just going to make your value skyrocket.
V. For women who want to be a part of golf, what would you tell them? I think golf is such an important sport and community especially as a woman. Just like any other decision you’re going to make, don’t be scared. Show up to a driving range. Ask for help. I love everything in golf because they are so nice and so helpful and so supportive. I know it’s scary sometimes especially if you’ve never golfed. I know this is out there, but reach out to your favorite influencer. They’ll all respond and they have conversations with their followers all the time…It’s an important industry and sport to grow community, develop relationships and make new ones. It comes down to spending time with people on a golf course. If you do golf, you know it’s the best worst sport in the world because it’s so frustrating but also the best.