Lynne Doughtie had just taken up golf when she snagged a premiere pro-am group at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. It was 2015. Michelle Wie was playing some of the best golf of her career and had won the U.S. Women’s Open the year before; Doughtie had just been elected to lead KPMG.
Their two worlds came together at Westchester Country Club for what was the first year of a brand-new partnership between KPMG, the LPGA and PGA of America, who united to re-brand and revitalize what had previously been the LPGA Championship. As the first female to be named U.S. Chairman and CEO of KPMG, Doughtie knew a thing or two about being in unfamiliar territory but playing alongside a major champion like Wie had the executive slightly intimidated.
“You watch these amazing athletes up close and it’s so impressive and inspiring and also humbling in that you think, ‘why can’t I do what they do?’” Doughtie said during a recent phone interview. “I just find the LPGA players to be so engaging, so helpful, so grateful for you know all of the things that we’re doing as part of the Championship. It really has been a real pleasure to get to know them personally, too.”
Doughtie has been a fixture at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship since its inception, as both a participant in the pro-am and as an annual speaker at the Women’s Leadership Summit. But she will miss the 2020 Championship being staged at Aronimink Golf Club. Doughtie’s five-year term at the helm of KPMG comes to an end in June. The CEO’s tenure would have wrapped up right around the time the Championship was originally scheduled to be staged June 23 – 28 but was postponed until October due to COVID-19.
“It’s really been one of the highlights of my career with KPMG and it’s hard to believe that we’re celebrating the sixth KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this Fall,” Doughtie said. “Obviously, with COVID-19 we’ve got our work cut out for us in how we’re going to have to adapt and do things in new ways, but I know we’re up to that challenge and we’re going to try and make it very special.”
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has become just that. Special. Through the event’s transformation, it has become a catalyst for change for women both on and off the golf course.
First, that change came with money. In 2015, the Championship had a purse of $3.5 million dollars, which at the time was one of the highest on the LPGA Tour. In September, the women will compete for $4.3 million dollars, which is nearly half a million dollars more than the year before and the largest purse increase on Tour in 2020.
Second, was the venues. The Championship put a premium to staging their event at the best courses, not just in the women’s game, but in all of golf. Since 2016, the Championship has been staged at Sahalee Country Club, Olympia Fields Country Club, Kemper Lakes Golf Club, Hazeltine National Golf Club, and in 2020 will be held at Aronimink Golf Club. Before KPMG, the LPGA and PGA of America joined forces, none of these courses had hosted a women’s major.
Third, was business. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship sought to find a way to empower women to continue their climb towards the C-Suite, which at the time was occupied by less than 20 percent women. They saw the week of the Championship as an opportunity to unite women in business with those in the sporting world by hosting the Women’s Leadership Summit on-site at the golf course. The Summit has featured the who’s who in sport, like Olympic gold medalists Lindsey Vonn and Michelle Kwan, as well as those in business, like Target Chairman and CEO, Brian Cornell, and former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. With the success of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit, more than a dozen LPGA Tour stops followed suit and implemented their own empowerment events.
“That’s exactly what we hoped would happen, that we would encourage this more and more,” Doughtie said about inspiring the growth of the women’s events. “We’ve had close to 50 percent of our past participants be promoted and many of those into the C-suite, so we feel really proud about that.”
Finally, Doughtie and the team at KPMG discovered a way to use the Championship to not only empower the leaders of today but the next generation, too. The Future Leaders Program provides scholarships to young women in low income communities to help them attend college and provide them with leadership programming as well. The program is funded directly through proceeds generated by the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. In 2020, Doughtie participated in a virtual graduation celebration with the first inaugural class to graduate through the program.
To say the partnership between KPMG, the LPGA and the PGA of America has been a success would be an understatement. The transformation of the Championship has been one that has spilled over to create lasting benefits for women and inspired countless other Tour events to do the same.
“My hope is we keep that momentum going,” Doughtie said as she steps away from KPMG, “keep growing the game of golf, not only for women, but the important work of women’s leadership, as well as these future generations coming behind us.”
Doughtie, like so many golfers, has been bit by the bug. She’s developed a real love of the game, and since that first pro-am experience alongside Wie in 2015, she’s learned not to be intimidated. It’s a lesson she’s shared with other women too, a lesson in life both on and off the golf course.
“Because it’s so hard, it just kind of hooks you,” Doughtie said. “You just want to go after it and keep trying and trying, and so I’ve really found a passion for it myself where I’m determined that one of these days, I’m going to put a good round together.”