LPGA Professional Hall of Fame member helped the LPGA Professionals organization accomplish an important objective
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on the LPGA Women’s Network website (https://lpgawomensnetwork.com)
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (July 16, 2021) – Sometimes big things are accomplished when there’s a need, an idea, a connection and a dash of Southern hospitality.
At least that may be said of LPGA Professional Hall of Fame member Donna H. White, who seized an opportunity to help her LPGA Professionals organization accomplish an important objective.
Five years ago, the LPGA Professionals mapped out a strategic plan to move at least 50 percent of its teacher certification program online. The organization updated its curriculum and educational programs, but sorely needed a robust Learning Management System to host its online learning and certification program.
Enter, Donna White – the affable native North Carolinian who’s never met a stranger – and just so happens to have played 15 years on the LPGA Tour, served as Southeast Section President, and who has garnered a host of honors, including LPGA National Professional of the Year and the LPGA’s Ellen Griffin Rolex Award. It was White who delivered the final critical piece to a tricky puzzle for her association.
As an instructor at Keiser University’s College of Golf (KUCOG) which is located at its Flagship residential campus in West Palm Beach, Fla., White was already using the school’s “Keiser Live” learning program on its Blackboard platform. And as a member of the LPGA Professionals’ Executive Committee, she was well aware of the challenges and need to take the LPGA’s educational program online.
That’s where White’s connections went to work.
“I had sat in so many meetings and knew it was time to take some action,” she said. “Once our education materials were updated, I reached out to Keiser. The Keiser family has been very supportive in trying to get more women involved in the golf industry, so I just asked if they would consider allowing the LPGA Professionals to use its Blackboard platform?”
That request was welcomed and swung the doors wide open for the association, which entered into a partnership with Keiser University in 2019. The university’s I.T. department worked with the LPGA Professionals’ education office to build the online program that was launched in January 2020.
“It was serendipitous and we didn’t miss a beat,” said Gwen Checho, senior manager of education for the LPGA Professionals. “Because of the pandemic, we got about 70 percent of our classes online with plans to launch our Level 1 program in Korea this May.”
But thanks to White’s inside connection with both the LPGA and Keiser University, the agreement has accomplished far more than simply linking information with an online learning system. She helped create opportunities for young women enrolled in the school’s professional golf management program.
“I thought it would be cool that all of the women coming through Keiser’s program could be eligible to become LPGA professionals,” said White. “The
students in the KUCOG associate of science program could apply for an apprenticeship, while those in the bachelor of science program could apply for LPGA Class A-2 status. That’s a win-win for students to get a degree and enter the professional side of the business.
White also helped make tuition assistance available at any of the Keiser University locations or online for LPGA Professional members, as well as for members of the LPGA Women’s Amateur Association. In addition, Keiser elected to become even more involved and stepped up as a tournament sponsor for a Symetra Tour event, as well as for the LPGA Tour this year.
One cost-savings benefit of the online education arrangement with Keiser University has been that programs have continued and grown in spite of domestic and international travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
International programs did not grind to a halt during the pandemic and a new online educational program will launch in Chinese for January 2022, with 36 applicants from China already poised to enter the LPGA Professionals education and certification program next year.
“There are a number of international members who could not travel to the United States in the last 12 months, but because the classes are online, they could start their LPGA membership,” said Checho.
“Online education has strengthened and widened our reach to more countries, in more languages and our online ability now makes us a more global organization like the LPGA Tour, while making our curriculum available to more women around the world,” Checho added.
With so many positives stemming from White’s outreach to Keiser University, Marvol Barnard, LPGA Professionals National President, knew exactly who she wanted to receive the President’s Award earlier this year during the LPGA’s online awards ceremony. The award is not presented every year and only for “extraordinary” actions by members.
“This is something that makes a real difference to our organization and it’s due to Donna’s humble nature and ability to think outside the box,” said Barnard. “She saw the possibilities with her university and with her organization and it’s a real gamechanger for the LPGA because it allows us to have outreach in places where we may not have had a presence.”
Barnard also sees the online learning program as a cost-savings aspect for LPGA certification candidates when it comes to travel and time away from work. The previous model required much more travel, often at considerable expense for young professionals not established in their careers.
“This saves members money and creates more opportunity for us to grow the membership,” she added. “To make it all work has been a real team effort, but the link came through Donna.”
White’s presence at Keiser University has been felt since she arrived there in June 2010 to teach in both the associate and bachelor’s golf management program. She helps work with the school’s top-ranked NAIA women’s golf team and, because of her experience in online education, advised the LPGA how to redesign its educational content and activities to fit into an online platform.
But when asked how it all fell into place, White credited a mentor and her basic understanding of how to be neighborly.
“DeDe Owens was my college coach at UNC Greensboro and she challenged me when I retired from the tour to become the best golf professional I could be,” said White. “The rest of it is just part of Southern hospitality,” she added. “If you need something, let me see how I can help.”