Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is latest step for WGA and ESF

GLENVIEW, Ill. – The Western Golf Association’s Board of Governors has established a new committee to help drive efforts to increase diversity among the WGA’s leadership, staff, Evans Scholars and caddie communities.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is the latest step in the organization’s efforts to build a more diverse staff and volunteer leadership to better reflect the Evans Scholars community. Currently, about a third of the 1,045 Scholars in school are women, and a third are racial and ethnic minorities. ESF leaders first established a DE&I council in 2018.

The new board-level DE&I committee will be led by Derek Douglas, a WGA Director from Olympia Fields Country Club, who serves as Vice President of Civic Engagement and External Affairs at the University of Chicago. As committee chair, Douglas, who also has served as a special assistant to former President Barack Obama, will be a member of the WGA’s Board of Governors.

“I am honored and excited to help lead the WGA and ESF in its efforts to make a positive difference in the areas of racial and social justice,” Douglas said. “Diversity and inclusion are an important part of the life-changing experience that is earning the Evans Scholarship. With the establishment of this new committee, we have a unique opportunity within the world of golf to take a leading role in addressing social issues and ensuring that the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion are an integral part of all that we do as an organization.”

In September 2020, WGA and ESF leaders announced a long-range plan, comprised of eight ambition statements, including focusing on diversity and inclusion.

In the last decade, leaders have made promoting diversity within caddying, the Evans Scholars Program and the broader game of golf a priority. Efforts to provide caddie opportunities to new groups of young people – through programs such as the WGA Caddie Academy and the Jackson Park caddie effort – have resulted in increased diversity within the Evans Scholars Program. In this past year, racial and ethnic minorities made up nearly 40 percent of the newly awarded class of Evans Scholars.

Among other initiatives, the DE&I committee will help the WGA’s volunteer Directors attract more leaders with diverse experiences nationwide. It will also work with WGA leadership to explore how the organization can leverage its purchasing and investment power to advance economic opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses.

Within the Evans Scholars Program, the diversity and inclusion chair at each of the Scholarship chapters has been elevated to become a permanent position on the individual chapter’s executive board, which oversees House operations.

These efforts were made following recommendations from the previous DE&I council, who met regularly to discuss how to address issues of social justice within the Evans Scholars Program. Run by WGA Directors and Evans Scholars Alumni Jason DeJonker and John Singer, the group also met with students to discuss concerns and provided trainings. Both leaders will be a part of the transition to the new board committee.

“After a very challenging year, we’re at an important crossroads for our organization,” said WGA President and CEO John Kaczkowski. “It’s imperative that we focus our energy and efforts to support the future positive impact on the communities we serve. This includes continuing to foster a welcoming environment for all students within the Evans Scholars Program. And it means that we’re more committed than ever to helping as many young caddies as possible – students who come from more diverse backgrounds, from more places across the country – be able to get to college in the first place.”