Molding The Future Of Golf

Caroline Kleiner

iana Jones — a five-time PGA WORKS collegiate champion and just the 7th African-American woman elected to PGA membership — says her passion for golf isn’t the only thing that drives her success for others. Jones is also inspired by what she can do to encourage greater diversity in the sport.

“As a PGA member, I’m proud to be able to represent an organization and create change that mirrors the country that I serve,” Jones said. “For me, it’s very important that I be that face of change, but also help engineer and be very intuitive about how the process of getting more minorities into the sport is accomplished.”

Jones’ role model status is the result of a long golf journey that began when she was only three years old. Her father, a self-taught golfer, passed down an intense passion for the game that has shaped her life.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Criminal Justice, Jones found she was not yet fulfilled academically and sought to remedy this through golf. She enrolled in the University of Maryland Eastern Shores’ (UMES) Golf Management program, where she became one of the program’s most successful athletes and students.

“Academically, Tiana was my best student in her cohort,” Christopher Prosser, UMES Professor of Golf Management, said to the Caller Times. “She had a curiosity in the classroom that allowed her to accumulate the knowledge of a great golf instructor.”

Jones now works as a PGA Director of Instruction at TopGolf Cleveland, Jones has put her experience at UMES to good use by teaching all ages and skill levels, an experience she finds both enjoyable and educational. She said the better her players get, the better competition they are for her on the golf course.

Jones also relishes her teaching position for the impact she is able to make on increasing diversity in golf. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, as of February 2021, only 173 of the nearly 28,000 PGA members are African American, which includes Jones’ role model and fellow Ohio-based instructor at Clearview Golf Course, Renee Powell.  Jones met Powell at seven years old and said it was like meeting Wonder Woman.

“All the struggles and challenges that I knew that she had gone through, being on Clearview Golf Course was like being in Wakanda,” Jones said.

Jones’s career has begun to embody many of the trailblazing attributes of Powell’s legacy, but she knows the fight for increasing diversity and inclusion in golf is far from over.

“America is a big melting pot. With golf, unfortunately, we have not always been the traditional face that shows a lot of diversity and inclusion,” she said. “It is very important that in our media, as well as in our organizations, the LPGA and the PGA, we define diversity and inclusion through what we represent.”

A hopeful competitor in LPGA events and successful PGA Director of Instruction, Jones’ golf experience thus far has been incredibly fulfilling and uplifting.

“Golf is not only a way of life for me, but golf has molded and shown me how to deal with tough situations,” Jones said. “With golf, I can actually become the person that I’ve always seen myself becoming as I continue to grow on my journey.”