The closest Sandy Cross (BA ’92) ever got to a golf course growing up in Hamburg, N.Y., was the occasional visit to a driving range with her brother—which makes the fact that she parlayed a 90-day temporary position at PGA of America into a 19-year career especially remarkable. Now, as senior director of diversity and inclusion, a newly created position, she’s changing the face of golf, leading women, minorities and disabled populations up fairways across the country.
“I had no golf background,” says Cross, who began her tenure at PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., as a licensing administrator. “I never thought I’d be at the PGA for the amount of time that I have been. It’s been a tremendous experience.”
Over the last 20 years, Cross has led a number of successful initiatives to grow women’s involvement in the game. Now, she’ll be expanding golf’s reach to even more people. For example, a fairly new program called PGA Junior League Golf is introducing kids from all backgrounds to the game in a team setting. “We started this two years ago, and it’s taking off like wildfire.”
Cross said she owes her success in this traditionally male-dominated field to a few good mentors. “There weren’t many women at all in leadership roles at the PGA or in the industry that I could see, aspire to and/or emulate,” she recalls.
So she applied herself, built relationships and took advantage of PGA professional instruction to learn the game. Two of her earliest supervisors, both men, saw her potential and championed her desire to advance. “They were tremendously inclusive and saw that I was coachable, career-minded and hungry to grow,” Cross says.
Determined to learn every aspect of the business, Cross did stints in licensing, marketing and sales, business development, player development and women’s initiatives. In the latter, she helped create the Connecting With Her program to make the game more inviting to women. She’s coordinating the inaugural KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June in Rye, N.Y., which will include a Women’s Leadership Summit.
Golf was an unlikely career path for Cross. She was leaning toward law at UB, where she also played volleyball all four years. Then, she took up a work-study program supervised by the athletic department’s Peter Bothner, which inspired a shift toward sports management. She went on to earn her master’s of sports administration from Kent State University, landed the temp job at the PGA and set about changing the game.
Golf returned the favor, as it turns out, giving Cross not only a fulfilling career but a husband, too. They met on the golf course.