BPGA asking for leading jobs for Bahamian golf pros
Association president Pratt says more opportunities need to be made available
More than 50 years after the body would have been established, members of the Bahamas Professional Golfers Association (BPGA) feel as if they are still fighting for some of the issues today that they were lobbying for back then. In fact, they would say that it’s worse today given the state of professional golf in the country and the opportunities available for Bahamian golf professionals.
Of significant concern is the employment opportunities available for Bahamians at the major hotel resorts for director of golf, head golf pro and resident golf pro positions.
BPGA President Glenn Pratt, who is celebrating 50 years of competitive golf this year, said there is no respect for the Bahamian golf pros and no employment opportunities available for them.
“A lot of government leaders don’t even know that professional golf exists because they only relate to the Bahamas Golf Federation (BGF) which governs the amateur body of the sport. This is our livelihood. We’re the ones who are supposed to be employed at every golf course in The Bahamas and we’re the ones who are not. We’re fighting to be employed. We’re well-educated and we’re well-experienced,” he said. “The folks who are getting these opportunities are foreign and white. They are the ones who are getting hired. It’s right back to the days when Black people couldn’t work in a bank and didn’t have a say for themselves. The majority of these foreign pros are not as qualified as we are. We are questioned about our qualifications but we never question them. We invite them to come play in our tournaments but they don’t associate with us. They would hire some Bahamians who are not qualified, and when they find the ones who are, they would do all they can to frustrate them out of their jobs. After 50 years, I feel like I am worse off than I was 50 years ago as it relates to golf in this country. We have collectively gone backwards.”
Back for a second non-consecutive term as president, Pratt said it is incumbent on his administration to educate government leaders on the value of Bahamians being in lead golf positions professionally and running the various golf courses in The Bahamas.
“There is no representation in government that favors Bahamian professionals having the authority to govern what happens over professional golf courses,” said Pratt. “When political leaders get elected, they automatically become smart enough to run a country. That is their mandate, but here you have us who have been at it for 50 years, they don’t believe we are smart enough to run a golf course. Maybe we need to bring in some foreigners to do their jobs because I don’t believe they are smart enough to run a country. This is something that we have been screaming and shouting for many years, as it relates to employment. There has been no positive feedback. They are not giving us any attention at all.”
Pratt said that they have met with the Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell, but added that it has been unproductive and unfruitful. Currently, there are about 15 Bahamian golf pros in the country: Marcus Pratt, BPGA vice president; Raquel Riley, BPGA secretary and immediate past president; Keathen Stuart, BPGA treasurer; Pratt, Keno Turnquest, Chris Lewis and Georgette Rolle, just to name a few. According to BPGA President Glenn Pratt, who has been at the helm of the BPGA for just about a month, none of them are employed in leading golf positions at major resorts and golf courses in the country.
“There are so many people who come through this country who we don’t get to meet because we don’t have a Bahamian pro on the golf courses who could set up meetings with government ministers. We should be the ones meeting the movers and shakers in the industry and ensuring that they become regulars here,” said Pratt. “There are so many people who come through this country who our government don’t get to meet and that’s huge because they could invest and we could spread some of the wealth to different parts of the country. It all happens through networking. The foreign pros are meeting these people, but they are not introducing them to our government, so we are losing our opportunities. The government needs to understand why it’s important for us to be employed as resident professionals, head golf pros and golf directors at every golf course in the country. We are more than capable of running golf courses and teaching the best golfers in the world.”
BPGA Vice President Marcus Pratt reiterated those sentiments, adding that they need the country’s prime minister to step in like the late Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, former prime minister of The Bahamas, did when he came to power in the late 1960s.
“What we really need is for the government of The Bahamas to reenact the authority on the golfing community and give it to the Bahamian professionals as it was in the beginning. Let history repeat itself,” he said. “Here we are 50 years later and professional golf means nothing. We need it to come from the prime minister that the authority for pro golf in The Bahamas be given back to Bahamians. Bahamian golf pros will always assist other Bahamians to become pros, but there are no foreign golf pros who will assist and develop Bahamian golfers. We are about progressively moving the body forward and that can’t happen as long as we are being kicked out and pushed out at golf courses daily. Foreign golf pros are not about building Bahamian golf and professional golf in The Bahamas; they are all about business.”
BPGA Secretary Raquel Riley said she had leading golf positions at Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club in the Abacos and at the Albany resort until she was pushed out in favor of a foreigner. She said she feels like there was little attained on their behalf in their meeting with Minister Bell.
“He basically described it as being so far beyond what we could understand to trying and stop it would be not possible. There were just a bunch of referrals and giving us the runaround. It appears that no one understands what is really going on,” she said.
BPGA President Pratt said it is their intention to bring professional golf back to where it used to be in The Bahamas, building it to a level of respect. The BPGA is the governing body for professional golf in The Bahamas.
“In the meeting with the minister of labour, it was said that all of these terms are in the heads of agreements and the deals are already made, but we never get to see these heads of agreements. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg do during his term so far and it is our intention to sit with him. We have to be the ones to educate the government when it comes to professional golf and the benefits of having us at the table. The fight goes on,” said Pratt.
He added that it was the former prime minister, Pindling, who stood up on their behalf when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) came to office in 1967 – the same year the BPGA was formed.
“In Pindling, we had a leader who believed in his people and believed that they were intelligent enough to govern over anything in this country. You didn’t have to be foreign to be accepted and I lived through a huge part of that. We’re determined to make a difference and we’re not going to stop,” said Pratt. “One group of people, foreign pros, came together and decided that they are going to eliminate professional golf in this country, but we are not going to stop pushing forward. Someone has to leave something in place for all of these young kids and young golfers who are coming up in this country to eventually become golf pros and golf directors themselves. There are many Bahamian junior golfers out there, but now there is nothing here for them, so they are discouraged. They have nothing to look forward to and we have to change that.”
As far as their plans for The Bahamas’ 50th Golden Jubilee Independence year is concerned, Pratt said they intend to stage a “Salute to Legends” golfers ball and bring to life a golf hall of fame. He said they would also like to put something in place to celebrate the mega accomplishment of Bahamian Fred Perpall who was elected as president of the United States Golf Association (USGA) last month. He is not only the first person of African descent to hold the position of USGA president, but also the first Bahamian to be elected as president of a major sports organization in the US.
“We have to celebrate Fred Perpall,” said Pratt. “We’re looking to organize something for all of the young golfers in the country to meet him and for the golf community to realize how important it is for all of us to recognize what his position means for golf in The Bahamas. We need to show the US and the rest of the world how proud we are of him.”
The BPGA was revived in 2020 after a short dormant period. Riley served as president before handing over the reins to Pratt who is expected to serve as president for the next four years, until 2027.