If you watched the U.S. Open, or saw any of the news feeds, you’re well aware of the myriad roles of the USGA. It’s the governing body of golf in the U.S. and Mexico, the interpreter and enforcer of rules (with the R&A), and the organization, right or wrong, that collectively took it on the chin for the Shinnecock Hills set up.
It’s not an easy job.
But, this expansive organization also has a lot of heart, with myriad programs, research and initiatives all dedicated to one thing: growing and nurturing the game of golf.
One great example is the organization’s P.J. Boatwright Internship program. Since its inception 27 years ago, this program has provided more than $28 million to fund nearly 2,400 paid internships at its allied state and regional golf associations in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico.
“The Boatwright internship is all about identifying people from various walks of life who are passionate about golf as a career, with the goal of helping them build their capability to equal their passion, so they can serve the game,” said Steve Schloss, Chief People Officer for the USGA.
During the internships, which currently run anywhere between three months to a year in duration, participants gain direct exposure into all aspects of the associations; from running tournaments to orchestrating junior golf programs, to learning about finance and communications, to working with members—and everything in between.
“In many ways, these allied golf associations are like small businesses serving a large community,” Schloss said. “So, much like they would in a startup company, interns wear many hats, and have the opportunity to learn all facets of what makes the organization run. That experience is invaluable.”
While many interns go on to be golf administrators, others use the skills they gain in different sports or industries.
“The quality of a Boatwright intern from a grand perspective is very high in sports in general,” Schloss said. “So, it’s often I might meet someone who was a Boatwright intern at a certain part of his or her career, who might be a senior executive at major league baseball now. It’s a program that’s recognized and very respected, well beyond the world of golf. ”
Meet Bryan Kaneshiro: The 56-Year-Old Intern
While most of this year’s interns are young, or fresh out of college, the USGA believes in making its internship program inclusive. There’s no better evidence of that fact than a 2018 intern named Bryan Kaneshiro. He’s 56 years old and as enthusiastic about turning a lifetime love into a full-time gig as any of the other 120 P.J. Boatwright interns. Maybe a little bit more so.
“Golf has always been a part of my life, thanks to my parents and grandparents. Then, when my wife and I had our son, Zack, my father took him out on the golf course when he was very young, and he was hooked, too,” Kaneshiro said. “The beauty of golf, as a parent, is that it’s the only sport where you can spend four hours of quality time with your child, without distraction. So, we were happy that he wanted to play.”
What started as a hobby turned into something more for Zack as he got a little older. His goal? Acceptance into a Division I college. His parents were there, all the way, to support his dream.
“We were at the golf course every day. And when Zack started playing in tournaments, my wife and I started volunteering at the events,” Kaneshiro said. “I was an independent sales rep, so I had flexibility in my schedule. Plus, I’ve always been a big believer in what golf teaches kids, so, I wanted to help promote that.”
The more serious Zack became about a future in golf, the more involved his parents became.
“During the tournaments, I used to sit and talk with Paul Ogawa, the executive director of the Hawaii State Golf Association, about how to grow the sport in Hawaii—because I think it’s so important,” Kaneshiro said. “When Zack went off to college at The University of Santa Clara (yes, it is a Division I ), Paul called me and told me about the P.J. Boatwright Internship—and encouraged me to apply.”
Although Kaneshiro never pictured himself in the golf business, the idea of a new adventure, in a sport that he loved so much, was intriguing. So, he applied, was accepted, and started his year-long adventure with the Hawaii State Golf Association in January of 2018.
“It’s a wonderful challenge, learning about the industry,” he said. “As part of the internship, we visited the USGA headquarters in New Jersey to see what they do. I never thought it was that big, with so many facets. Seeing the golf museum, the testing center for clubs and balls—seeing golf from this point-of-view has been amazing.”
The only thing lacking is attention to his own golf game.
“I can’t even remember the last time I’ve played a full 18 holes,” Kaneshiro said. “I call myself ‘The Range Pro.’”
Yet, from the sound of things, he’s pretty darn happy. And, why wouldn’t he be? He’s surrounded by golf. In Hawaii, no less.
For some of us, that is the definition of heaven.
More Diversity, Broader Scope, More Positive Changes Coming Next Year
Going forward, Schloss and the USGA are taking steps to further amplify the diversity of the Boatwright program, from a gender and multicultural perspective, to better represent the growing diversity of the sport itself. Schloss is also focused on expanding the scope of the program to modernize it, to better serve the needs of a changing industry.
“It is my expectation that we will re-design the fundamental Boatwright experience, not because it’s broken, but, so we can look at the term ‘internship’ through a longer lens. Maybe it’s rotational. Maybe it’s functionally driven. Maybe it’s focused on unique groups of individuals who are looking to work on projects that are national in nature,” Schloss said. “What we want to do is widen the scope of what Boatwright internships look like, which allows us to also widen the scope of the kinds of people it attracts, which will also make it more diverse, as well. “
To learn more about the USGA’s P. J Boatwright Internship Program or to find out if there’s currently an internship opportunity available near you, visit http://www.usga.org/about/p-j–boatwright-internship—golf-administration-.html.