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TPC Harding Park celebrates Pride Month, supports LGBTQ+ community year-round

6 Min Read

Beyond the Ropes

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    Written by Helen Ross @Helen_PGATOUR

    Tom Smith had known Greg Fitzgerald for several years when his friend and fellow golf pro shared for the first time with his peers that he was gay during a meeting of the Northern California PGA Section.

    Smith, who is the general manager at TPC Harding Park, had learned a lot about the LGBTQ+ community while living in San Francisco. He knew it couldn’t have been an easy decision for Fitzgerald, and after the meeting was over the two began to talk.

    Among the topics of conversation, Smith asked whether his friend knew of a Pride tournament in the area. Fitzgerald, who is the head pro at one of the nation’s most private clubs, The Institute in Morgan Hill, California, told him he didn’t think so.

    So, the two hatched the idea of having a Pride pro-am at TPC Harding Park, which is a picturesque municipal course on the shores of Lake Merced. The course, which is named after President Warren Harding, has hosted a litany of big-time tournaments like the 2009 Presidents Cup, the 2020 PGA Championship, a trio of Charles Schwab Cups and the 2023 Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown on the LPGA.

    “One of the reasons we chose Harding is because Harding is a public golf course,” Smith says. “It's a public golf course that's hosted the best players in the world. We'll be a hundred years old next year, so it's time tested in the golf space, but it's important to be reflective of the community within which we serve. …

    “Not to be too cliche, but we have to be … embracing of the community within which we serve and the community that visits us. So, it made complete sense for us to be the leaders in this category in an otherwise desert of an industry with LGBTQ+.”

    Smith considers himself a fierce ally of the LGBTQ+ community. He’s learned a lot from his wife Lynn, who is a member of Cheer SF, the city’s official cheerleading squad. Many of her teammates are gay, lesbian or transgender. One serves on the board of San Francisco Pride, so Smith reached out.

    Once he knew there was interest in a tournament, Smith recruited local pros to play in the event. TopGolf and MasterCard – “Entities that have an interest to truly expand the inclusion through the game of golf,” Smith says – have signed on as sponsors, too. Ditto for Golf Ireland, and Fitzgerald will be taking a group of Pride participants to play there.

    The sixth annual San Francisco Pride Golf Tournament will be held on Sept. 21. Yes, June is Pride Month, and the celebrations in San Francisco will draw millions. But the tournament’s mission is more than a one-day deal, so the timing isn’t as important as the message.


    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)

    Scenes from the 2022 San Francisco Pride Pro-Am at TPC Harding Park. (Credit TPC Harding Park)


    “We felt we owed it to not only the community here, but also to our sport, to our industry to show, look what we can do when we put our minds together and work together,” Smith says. “And I think on a personal note, my passion with being a general manager here for the PGA TOUR and the TPC Network is really changing lives. There were programs like the First Tee, phenomenal programs … there's PGA Hope, but there was nothing with the LGBTQ community.

    “This was kind of our way. Change starts with the power of one, and that's literally where it started. So, Greg and I grabbed this idea and started to run with it. So that's why it's so rewarding and important to showcase it. We can have a great time no matter what your background is, where you come from, what your golfing ability is, let's go play golf.”

    Another component of the Pride tournament is a Friday night celebration at the storied Fairmont Hotel where the PRISM Award, which recognizes a leader in the LGBTQ+ community within the golf space, is handed out. The first honoree was Tadd Fujikawa, the first openly gay male professional, who made the cut in the 2007 Sony Open in Hawaii as a 16-year-old.

    The annual Pride tournament and its accompanying events is supported by “Make Golf Your Thing,” which is a diversity, equity and inclusion project led by the TOUR, PGA of America, LPGA and USGA.

    Smith also worked with the PGA TOUR’s Creative Services department and SF Pride to develop a Pride version of the TPC Harding Park logo, a first for the network of courses. It’s used on signage during the tournament and apparel with the logo can be purchased year-round.

    In addition, a Pride Day was planned for the PGA Championship, although the full extent had to be scuttled when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the tournament to be played without spectators. But the rainbow flag was flown at the entrance on Wednesday, which was a major championship first.

    These interactions with the LGBTQ+ community are just some of the ways that TPC Harding Park is reaching out to groups that are underserved and underrepresented in the golf space.

    For example, the facility is hoping to host a second tournament on the Advocates Professional Golf Association to support its mission of fostering greater diversity in the game. The first APGA event was held in 2022 and won by Tim O’Neal, who is now competing on PGA TOUR Champions.

    Plus, Harding Park hosts the men’s, women’s, senior men’s and senior women’s divisions of San Francisco’s famed City Championship, as well as several college tournaments.

    TPC Harding Park is also the home of First Tee – San Francisco, which is undergoing a transformation thanks to a $5 million donation from Charles Schwab and his wife Alice in honor of their long-time friend, the late Sandy Tatum Jr. Tatum, a former USGA president, was a big supporter of the organization, and in 1997 spearheaded a $16 million restoration of Harding Park.

    A large portion of the Schwab’s gift was to renovate the First Tee practice facility, which can be bisected and made into two driving ranges. There are putting greens and chipping areas, as well as a 3,500 square-foot building that will open this fall with indoor and outdoor patio classrooms along with a state-of-the-art hitting bay.

    “And it's all available to the youth of San Francisco First Tee,” Smith says. “… They have tutors that actually are employed by the First Tee, classically trained tutors. They do the STEM program. They've got year-round programming here. … They even have a meal component to that for youth that aren't able to provide their own meals.

    “So that's all part of the synergy juices here at TPC Harding Park.”

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