Rachel Melendez Mabee Is Inspiring Us All to Chase Our Childhood Dreams

  • Intro & Interview By: Beth Gillette
  • Images Courtesy of: Rachel Melendez Mabee

While some people switch majors four times while trying to figure out what they want to do for a career, others seem to know what they want to do their entire lives — Rachel Melendez Mabee, PGA Words Program Specialist, is the later. She’s been playing golf since she was six, and has always known she wanted to work in golf — whether that be playing professional or working on the business side of the game.

As PGA Works Program Specialist, Rachel is making sure people of all backgrounds are afforded the opportunity to train and learn more about golf. (Amazing, huh?!). We were so excited to learn more about the game, how Rachel’s career in communications led her to PGA, and the importance of golf in her life.

 

Name: Rachel Melendez MabeePGA WORKS Program Specialist
Age: 37
Current Location: Pittsfield, MA
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Public Relations/Communications, Journalism: University of Georgia

 

What was your first job, and how did you land it?

 

My first job was at a boutique public relations firm in Atlanta, GA. I got my first job through networking at university career events, as well as Atlanta-based career events.

 

You’re a golfer yourself! How long have you been playing? What initially drew you to golf over other sports?

 

I joke that I came out of the womb with a golf club in my hand, but I have been golfing since I was about six, and started to compete when I was about eight. I was born in Puerto Rico and competed in their junior series. My initial teacher, and really my only teacher through my entire golf-playing career, was my late father. He was an avid golfer and it really was our unbreakable bond.

 

Your degree is in public relations. How does that help you in your current job?

 

The old cliché of being a “people person” rings so true in what I do, and studying public relations and communications really prepped and refined my “people skills.” Everyone can say they are a “people person,” but there is a true skill, in my opinion, to really developing meaningful and authentic relationships. While I am always a student of the business, I feel that my background has given me a good foundation to set me up for success.

 

Had you always wanted to have a career in golf? What led you back to it?

 

I always knew golf was going to be in my life/career in some capacity. Playing golf in the capacity that I did, I naturally had thoughts and aspirations of playing professionally. As I played through college and really saw how hard of a road it was to make it on tour, I had told myself that while I was going to try my hand at making it – if I couldn’t, I would somehow be in the business side of golf. I love golf too much for it not to be in my life in some capacity, and I am fortunate that I can actually say I say I turned my passion into my career.

 

Do you have any advice for women looking to shift their career?

 

Any shift in career deserves a hard look internally. You want to always be in a career that drives your passion, not necessarily a career that drives your bank account. See the opportunity — you can’t dream it if you can’t see it.

 

 

You want to always be in a career that drives your passion, not necessarily a career that drives your bank account. See the opportunity — you can’t dream it if you can’t see it.

 

 

Tell us about the PGA WORKS Fellowship. What is the mission?

 

As the flagship program of the Diversity & Inclusion pillar of PGA REACH, the PGA WORKS Fellowship aspires to be the most valuable entry-level employment opportunity for individuals from diverse backgrounds to garner experience in various facets of the golf industry, with a focus on foundation programming. Designed to help establish a deep bench of diverse talent that is prepared to ascend into key employment positions within the game and business of golf, the Fellowship is a 12-month paid position funded by PGA REACH.

The goal is to have a PGA WORKS Fellow in all 41 PGA Section offices nationwide in perpetuity. The experience of each PGA WORKS Fellowship may vary due to the needs of the host PGA Section, but the common thread is spending time working to further the mission and purpose of the host PGA Section’s foundation within its departments and programs, as well as spending time working on PGA REACH programming and fundraising that occurs within the host PGA Section.

This year, the Fellowship will host a total of 10 Fellows in the following PGA Sections: Carolinas, Connecticut, Gateway, Michigan, Middle Atlantic, Metropolitan, New Jersey, Northern Ohio, Southern Ohio, and South Florida.

 

What are your tasks and duties?

 

I am tasked with really spearheading the execution and direction of the PGA WORKS Fellowship program. The PGA WORKS Fellowship is a new program, and I have to get the attention of our decision makers to really invest in this program to ensure its sustainability. This means I work on the marketing and promotions of the program, managing the program budget, maintaining relationships with our PGA Section offices, and starting relationships with colleges and universities across the United States to help in the recruitment of candidates for the PGA WORKS Fellowship.

 

What does your typical day look like?

 

I don’t know if I have a “typical” day in this role, which is one of the many reasons I love it. My position serves as an integral part of the internal and external communication of all PGA REACH activities as they relate to PGA WORKS. However, on any given day, I could work on serving as the liaison/contact between PGA REACH and our PGA WORS fellows and the PGA Section staff of where each fellow works. I continuously am looking for new ways to market and promote the fellowship, including developing relationships with universities, minority-serving institutions and organizations, etc.

Additionally, I work to always improve the experience of the fellow and empower them and their experiences to speak for the program. There is no better person to “sell” the program than those that are participating in it, and the better I can make their experience, the better it works to have each fellows authentically talk about the program. As the “face” of the program, I also regularly engage with our key stakeholders, including members of the media and PGA REACH trustees, to talk to the programmatic impact PGA WORKS has.

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? What is the most challenging?

 

The most rewarding is finding a candidate, especially one that may not have ever thought about golf as a career, and not only introducing them to the business, but nurturing their professional development in the industry.

The most challenging is the starting line, really getting to our audiences and speaking to the fact that golf and the business of golf is indeed for them. Cutting through the myth of what golf once was and speaking to the fact that golf is heading in a direction where the demographic composition of those who play and work in it is drastically changing to look more like what modern-day America looks like.

 

You were born and raised in Puerto Rico. How are golf and sports different there than in the U.S.?

 

From the logistics of how tournaments are set up, there really is not much difference. The biggest difference is there is more competition in the U.S. and more opportunities to get noticed and scouted as you try to gain the attention of collegiate recruiters.

 

You were on the Golf Channel’s Big Break, a reality TV competition for aspiring golfers! How did this affect your career?

 

While I was already working in golf at the time for the First Tee of East Lake, the Big Break was truly my last “big break” to see if I could play golf on a professional level. While my time on the show was fairly successful, I am thankful for the way it played out as it solidified that my place in golf was on the business. My impact on the industry was best served working rather than playing the game.   

 

 

My impact on the industry was best served working rather than playing the game.

 

 

Who has been the most influential person in your career thus far?

 

My father. My father was not only a fantastic golf teacher but was a great business man. I would always go to him for advice. Even now that he is gone, I find myself asking “what would my dad do?” when thinking through any advice I may need.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

 

Never assume anything.  

 

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

 

As you are entering the workforce, be driven to succeed — but don’t live to work, work to live. Enjoy what you do and be good at it, but don’t forget to enjoy life while you can.

 

 

As you are entering the workforce, be driven to succeed — but don’t live to work, work to live. Enjoy what you do and be good at it, but don’t forget to enjoy life while you can.

 

 

Rachel Melendez Mabee is The Everygirl…

I wish I knew how to:
Do coding and web design

Favorite holiday?
Christmas (I love to decorate)

Favorite sport other than golf?
College football (to watch)

Favorite date night idea?
A quiet night in with a good glass of wine and hanging out with our dogs

City you’ve always wanted to move to?
London

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Michele Obama. There are so many reasons to admire Michele Obama — from her unwavering dedication to the health and wellbeing for our youth and setting them up for success, to the way she leads by example. There is something so fascinating about her persona and spirit as she seems to not ever sway from who she is and the core values/attributes that made her into who she is, even after being the first lady.

“Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” -Michele Obama

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