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Gateway PGA’s Ali Wells is a Rising Leader for Golf’s Future Generation to Follow

Multiple Gateway PGA WORKS Fellows have gone on to become full-time Section staff members thanks to Wells (far right).

Many Gateway PGA WORKS Fellows went on to become full-time Section staff thanks to Wells (far left).

There’s excitement happening everywhere you turn in the golf industry. 
The sport has seen steady growth in nearly every category over the past few decades.  From green grass facilities and practice ranges, to the growing number of Topgolf venues and spectator counts at major championships – it’s evident that more and more people of all backgrounds and abilities are gravitating to the game.  
Ali Wells is the Gateway PGA Section Executive Director of PGA Section. She believes these inclusive and welcoming efforts are here for the long-term. 
From basketball dreams to a golf career
Growing up in Cedar Rapids in South Dakota, Wells believed she would be the first woman to play for the NBA.  “If you’ve met me, you would know that was never in the cards for me standing at five-three … on a good day,” she notes.  “I clearly was not meant for the NBA, or the WNBA for that matter.”
Ali Wells (left) has found a passion in helping develop the golf careers of others.

Ali Wells (left), is passionate about helping others to develop their golf careers.
Ali knew from the start that sports would be a major part of her life.  After graduating from the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Ali’s love for the game grew deeper as she spent three seasons at the then PGA of America-owned Center for Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Florida. 
“I just fell in love with the Association and where the mission of the PGA of America was headed – from teaching and coaching, youth development, fitness and performance,” Wells remembers. I loved seeing how much growth opportunity there was.”
After her time in Florida, Wells moved to the Gateway PGA Section in 2012 and helped develop the Gateway PGA Foundation. 
From scratch.
“No one was there to actually execute the programming and vision,” says Wells. “So I was excited to step in.”  
She did more than just step in. She helped make those dreams a reality. 
Fast forward 10 years, Wells now finds herself at the helm of the ship as Executive Director, leading a talented team of eight individuals at the Gateway PGA Section and PGA REACH Gateway – the Section’s 501(c)(3) foundation. 
“I truly feel like I have the dream job,” notes Wells.  “It’s an absolute honor to serve in this position because there’s only 41 of these jobs in the entire world.”
PGA WORKS – Paying it forward
As the first woman PGA Professional to serve as an Executive Director for a PGA Section, she recognizes there is much more work to be done on this front to make the game accessible and welcoming for more women and minorities to enjoy – perhaps even see themselves making a career out of golf. 
“When I started there were only three of us,” Wells recalls. “In five years, that number has grown to six.” 
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The power of a PGA WORKS Fellowship – Opening doors to a career in golf
There’s no doubt Wells’ leadership style is a direct contributor to seeing more women in roles similar to hers and beyond.  One of those ways she’s committed to driving change in the game and business of golf is by supporting the PGA WORKS Fellowship, a one-year, paid immersion in a PGA Section’s operations that offers a taste of what a career in the golf industry can provide.
Since Wells’ tenure as Executive Director, five PGA WORKS Fellows have graduated from the Gateway PGA Section.  Each Fellow, she says, has contributed in their own way to the growth of the operation year-over. Three of the Fellows are currently employed full-time at the Gateway Section. All five are still active in the field of golf. 
“Ali exemplifies what it means to be a leader in every aspect, ” says the current Gateway PGA WORKS Fellow, Karena Ballard. “She has inspired me to show up everyday and do my best.”
Wells has been instrumental in the career growth of Gateway PGA WORKS Fellows, like Natalie Long (right).

Wells was instrumental to the career growth Gateway PGA WORKS Fellows such as Natalie Long (right).
Natalie Long, who has begun her own path to PGA Membership is completing the PGA WORKS Fellowship in the Gateway Section for 2019-20. Ali said that Ali has made a significant impact on the career of her by being more than a boss. Instead, she is a mentor and friend. 
Long says that Ali gave her the confidence and opportunities to let me step out of my comfort zone and accept my place in the industry. “She believed more in me than I believed myself at times, and serves to be a role model for many.
Mackenzie Myers is the Section’s Fellow for 2021-22. He draws inspiration from Wells as a full time member of the Gateway PGA Team. 
“As a PGA WORKS Fellow, Ali immediately impacted my career by being a mentor and leader from my very first day,” says Mackenzie.  “She encouraged me as a woman in the golf industry, and has empowered me to make decisions as both a Fellow and now as a Junior Golf Coordinator.”
Accepting discomfort is a way to be comfortable
PGA WORKS is not just about finding a job in golf, according to Wells. 
“It’s about figuring out how to take that next step – even if that takes you beyond golf,” she says. “Being in my position, I’m more focused on preparing our Fellows for that next step in their careers.” 
Cameron Dinkins, currently the PGA WORKS Coordinator, said that Wells made it easier to navigate the next steps in her career after receiving her Gateway PGA WORKS Fellowship 2021. 
“I know to this day I can count on her,” says Dinkins.  “Everyone needs someone like Ali rooting for them.”
Fernando Molina was the first PGA WORKS Fellow in the Gateway Section during the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club. He credits Wells with helping him to get on the right track. He’s now the Gateway PGA’s Programs Manager – the same position Wells started in.  
“Ali is the reason why I am where I am today within the PGA of America,” says Molina. “She inspires anyone she works with, and my hope is to one day be able to lead and inspire my own team in the same way Ali has.”  
Wells' golf career started in coaching but has blossomed into so much more.

Wells’s career in golf started as a coach but has since blossomed into so many other things.
Wells’ evident impact stems from her belief that growth doesn’t happen by staying in your comfort zone.  She shares that getting uncomfortable is such an important part of anyone’s development – whether in your career or something different.  
“I try to instill that idea in our entire team,” says Wells. “That’s ultimately where innovation comes from, and how we keep the game of golf moving forward.”

Visit PGA WORKS Fellowship to learn more

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