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April 2021

PGA National Resort and Spa Leading by Example

By Sally J. Sportsman

Inclusivity is nothing new at PGA National Resort and Spa, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Jane Broderick, Director of Golf and Club Manager, can attest to this, as she has been at the resort since 1986, nearly her entire career.

“We are just like America,” said Broderick, who is an LPGA Master Professional and a PGA Master Professional. “Our resort staff, both full-time and contract labor, reflects a mix of people, including men and women, various minorities and several native languages.

“There’s no part of us that excludes people. I’ve been doing this so long that inclusivity is second nature to me.”

The size and scope of the property would seem to lend itself naturally to such an approach. PGA National Resort and Spa, which in addition to its legendary destination-resort status also has a private membership of 2,000, features five 18-hole championship golf courses and three driving ranges. The venue has a distinguished history of hosting professional golf tournaments on its Champion course, including The Honda Classic, a PGA Tour event, from 2007 to the present; The Senior PGA Championship, 1982-2000; the 1983 Ryder Cup; and the 1987 PGA Championship. Staff members in every department, from those in outside operations and housekeeping to those in resort leadership positions, work together to keep all the wheels turning smoothly.

In addition to the golf courses, a golf academy and the spa, the resort features 339 hotel rooms, nine restaurants and lounges, a conference wing and a racquet club with 19 tennis courts. PGA National Resort and Spa has been home to the PGA of America since the resort’s establishment in 1980; however, the PGA has announced it will move its headquarters to Frisco, Texas, in 2022.

The resort uses a contract labor company to assist in hiring contract workers, some of whom speak Creole or Spanish in addition to English. The provider vets the workers. As for the golf teaching staff, most are men; Broderick is one of only two female PGA Professionals on property. Resort guests, however, 5% percent of whom seek out instruction during their stay, usually have no preference as to a male or female instructor.

“Women don’t seek out female instructors; it doesn’t matter,” Broderick said. “Technology is used to the same degree by female and male instructors.”

The inside staff on property consists of a combination of men and women. There is no pre-determined strategy for minority hires at PGA National Resort and Spa.

“It happens organically,” said Broderick. “As a result, we do have females in some key roles.”

Joyce Laurien is director of sales and marketing for Resort Membership Sales; Kristiann Galati heads up sales and marketing for the entire resort; and Celine Thibault is director of retail.

Resort guests account for 1/6 of rounds played at the venue, while members play 2/3 of rounds, and 1/6 of rounds are played outside, charity and corporate events. Broderick observed that in her experience, charity event organizers are mostly female, while corporate event organizers are a mix of men and women.

Retail merchandising and sales is an important segment of operations at the resort. Thibault, who has served as director of retail on property for nearly four years, has a wealth of expertise and experience, including retail leadership positions with Chanel and Disney World.

“It’s not unusual for a woman to be retail director at a resort,” said Thibault, “although at private clubs, it’s usually a man heading up the pro shop.”

Thibault oversees retail operations at the tennis shop as well as the golf shops. The spa director has her own team; she and Thibault are retail partners. Of the five retail directors, four are women. The shipping and receiving coordinator is a male.

“I hired the best folks with the best experience,” Thibault said. “As for a retail sales staff, it’s not uncommon for many of them to be female.”

Sales seem to reflect the demographics of the respective sports, Thibault noted. In the golf shop, 70% of merchandise sold is men’s apparel and accessories, while in the tennis shop, 80% of sales are of women’s merchandise. Women often purchase apparel for men in both shops, she said.

More men play golf, while more women play tennis, Thibault said, which reverberates throughout the resort’s sales figures and staff hires.

Prior to the pandemic, according to Thibault, about 60% of retail sales were to resort guests. The resort is under renovation now, including one golf course, guest rooms and fine-dining restaurants, so guest stays are reduced temporarily.

Across the spectrum of all the facilities and activities at PGA National Resort and Spa – including golf, tennis, food and beverage, resort guest rooms and a myriad of activities – a variety of minority hires reflect and enrich the composition of the staff. Some are people with disabilities.

“We partner with a charitable organization,” said Thibault. “We do have individuals with disabilities working with us throughout the resort.”

In our time or indeed any time, PGA National Resort and Spa stands as an important example of how diversity and inclusivity emerge as a natural result of thoughtful hiring practices and a welcoming environment. 

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