Saldana: Club-golf diversity outreach pays off

The TCU club golf team, a member of the NCCGA.
The TCU club golf team, a member of the NCCGA. ( Courtesy photo )

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ask the First Tee, PGA, or any other influential organization in golf and they will tell you that promoting diversity is a crucial strategy in helping grow the game. I had the opportunity to speak with an impressive young man, Guillermo "Memo" Saldana, who serves as president for the TCU club golf team – and has an interesting perspective on golf now and where the game is headed.

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Q: Golf is not the most diverse of sports; tell me about some of the backgrounds of players on the team. Of the 30-man roster, what is the ethnic breakdown?

Our team is very diverse. In our recruitment class we have players from other countries such as Panama, Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela, and from the states of California, Illinois, South Carolina, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Kansas, and some others. This is great for the team because everyone enjoys getting to know other cultures and we stand out in a good way from other teams. Players in NCCGA are happy to get to know people from other countries and other places in and outside the United States.

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Q: How have you improved the TCU team since taking over and how has club golf changed from last year to this year?

Our strategy was to try to get not only the best players, but the players that are committed and love golf at the same time. Recruitment was the key. Last year, the club was disorganized and nobody really understood what the goal was. We didn’t have practice facilities or a good way to communicate, which left our members discouraged due to the lack of resources and effort from the leaders.

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Q: What is it like being a non-white golfer? Or do you not even notice or think about it?

I feel like people realize mostly when you start speaking your native language, in my case, Spanish. When playing I’ll start speaking Spanish to someone else and all the people around me notice it and often gossip at times; it’s kind of fun, actually. But in my experience, this has been really helpful because other people get to know me because they are more interested in my background and kind of gets more attention for being different.

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Q: What are the biggest challenges you have overcome as a club president?

The toughest part was to make sure we have somewhere to practice and play, and to fund the organization. Furthermore, finding equipment and team gear has been a huge challenge in years past as well. This semester, however, all TCU club golf members receive a golf bag (this was a big deal for us!), a shirt and a cap. In addition to the equipment, our members get big discounts at Glen Garden Golf Course and Leonard’s Golf Links that are wonderful facilities to practice and help us keep our dream going.

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Q: How good of a chance does TCU have to make it to nationals?

TCU Club Golf has a great chance to make it to nationals! We have great players that are committed and have a passion for golf. Even though we finished second place at the Texas Regional 1 behind Baylor (a team with great leadership that had 10 out of their top 12 scores in the 60s or 70s), we think that we’ll fare better in the next regional and make it to nationals. We created a nice little rivalry with Baylor and the players are excited, so we are also exploring a dual-match with them.

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Q: What are your thoughts about the NCCGA and its growth over the past year?

NCCGA is a great organization with hard-working leaders and the fact that the organization has grown (threefold) in terms of the number of teams added in the past year is amazing.

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Q: What do you think about CollegeGolfPass and its potential?

CollegeGolfPass is a great idea as college students get by on a tight budget and as we all know, golf is not cheap. I expect the growth of CollegeGolfPass to keep pace alongside NCCGA as both organizations are run together and CGP courses are being added around NCCGA campuses nationwide.

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Q: How can we help promote more diversity in golf?

At TCU there is a big community of International students, and many of them play golf. We’ve sought them out and were happy to learn that there was a genuine interest in learning the game. I bet some other schools should have a similar situation to us but have not yet got in touch with their international community. This could promote diversity and be really nice for everyone – the international students, the student organizations, and for NCCGA.

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Promoting diversity in golf is challenging; more kids need to start playing without thinking about their backgrounds. The First Tee is doing a great job of that, and I think that golf will become more diverse in years to come. More people are noticing golf, and golf courses are becoming more affordable through programs such as College Golf Pass.

At CGP & NCCGA, we are excited about promoting diversity in the game. Natalie Dittrich, president of the Wake Forest women’s golf club golf team, will be the next interview in our diversity series.

Guillermo Saldana is the TCU Club Golf President and is from Torreon, Mexico. He is double majoring in Finance and Economics. Interview conducted by Mike Belkin, Co-Founder of CollegeGolfPass and NCCGA Board Member. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.