PGA CEO Pete Bevacqua: Golf must focus on diversity in order to thrive

NEW YORK -- The chief executive officer of the PGA of America says golf must concentrate on diversity to compete for fans.

Speaking at the Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium on Wednesday on Citi Field, Pete Bevacqua told the audience, "Golf realizes it has to really make some fundamental changes and unbelievable progress in this area if the game is going to continue to be healthy.

"If we're not more diverse in the next 25, 50, 100 years, the sport's in trouble," he said. "So instead of hiding from that, we're embracing that, and we're trying to institute those changes at every aspect of our organization."

While praising young stars such as Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Inbee Park, Bevacqua said, "We need more people playing golf, more diversity in that regard, and more people watching golf.

"We have a history that maybe we have to live down a little," he said.

Suzy Whaley last year was elected secretary of the PGA of America, becoming the first woman officer in the history of the organization, which began in 1916.

Bevacqua maintained the PGA of America can only do so much to persuade private golf clubs to admit more diverse members.

"Do we go into clubs and say you need to change your membership policies? You know, we don't influence them in that direct way," he said. "But many of those clubs obviously want to attract our championship, the PGA Championship, the Women's PGA Championship, things like the Ryder Cup, and we have very clear rules that we won't bring any of our events, let alone our marquee events ... to clubs that don't have a very open membership roster. That's one of the fundamental tenets of who we are."