High-Tech Connection: World Wide Technology, PGA Tour Event Create Solid Coupling
by Scott Michaux
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO | Jim Kavanaugh, the CEO and co-founder of World Wide Technology, was invited to visit Mayakoba in 2020 by the resort's PGA Tour tournament director Joe Mazzeo and Borja Escalada, CEO of resort owner RLH Properties. Mayakoba was in the market for a title sponsor. Kavanaugh's expectations for the pitch were about the same as anyone who's sat through a time-share presentation to get a free massage.
"When I first came down here and met Joe and Borja, my intent was not to do the tournament," Kavanaugh said. "When I had the visit, I was like, 'Wow, what an incredible place with incredible people who are just so hospitable and so nice.' That really provided me the opportunity to step back and see what a great venue and great event to bring our customers and partners to create a very unique experience."
World Wide Technology committed to being title sponsor for the PGA Tour's championship at Mayakoba starting in 2021 through 2027.
"It's a really special place, and there truly aren't many places like this," Kavanaugh said. "I truly believe this is a hidden gem."
World Wide Technology might not be a household name for many golf observers, but the St. Louis-based tech-services company is the largest Black-owned company in America and well known in the corporate realm, as well as federal, state and local government. WWT resells and equips tech for everyone from companies to courthouses to military bases to prisons to schools. Founders David Steward and Kavanaugh built a tech empire in 1990 without manufacturing anything, instead providing expansive tech services in the areas of cloud computing, computer security, data centers, data analytics and artificial intelligence, computer networks, application software development, cellphone-carrier networking and consulting.
A net worth in the billions reportedly places Steward above Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan on the list of wealthiest Black Americans.
World Wide Technology's support in the golf realm, however, is not just about name recognition. It's more purpose-driven than just title rights, advertising minutes on a PGA Tour broadcast and the lure of feting clients at a tropical resort. As one of America's largest Black-owned companies, supporting growth and access is a key attraction to its goals and an important reason it became involved with golf.
"It's a major milestone, because when we started 13 years ago we had three tournaments and it was a struggle to get to $40,000 total prize money." – Ken Bentley, APGA commissioner
"As one of the largest minority-owned companies in the United States, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are embedded in our DNA; being a PGA Tour sponsor aligns directly to our core values," said Bob Ferrell, a retired Army lieutenant general who serves as executive vice president of public sector strategy and diversity and inclusion at World Wide Technology.
"When we view golf, it's an avenue for uplifting others and for teaching leadership and then instilling the values to strengthen our innovation, which is really our core cornerstone here at World Wide Technology. We joined the tour and Mayakoba based on the community and the intent of a long-lasting impact in the Playa del Carmen and Cancún regions to do their expansion of golf and professional youth players. That's really what attracted us to that. The Mayakoba community is a pioneer in this sport in Mexico and in Latin America, and it shares the common goals that we have, which is really making a new world happen for all."
Beyond its sponsorship at Mayakoba, WWT's support can be found in places like the collegiate East Lake Cup, which has raised more than $1.5 million for the East Lake Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to helping families build better lives and children reach their highest potential through its holistic approach to community revitalization incorporating mixed-income housing, cradle-to-college education and community wellness.
It is also one of the principal sponsors of the Advocates Professional Golf Association, which was established in 2010 to prepare Black and other minority golfers to compete and win at the highest level of professional golf, both on tour and in the golf industry. World Wide Technology sponsors the APGA's player-development program and $20,000 bonus prize pool.
"We found that most of our guys had never been fitted for their clubs, they were practicing on First Tee courses, they didn't have professional coaching," said Ken Bentley, the APGA commissioner, of the results of a player survey. "So our guys were trying to make it to the PGA Tour without the resources.
"We saw this as an opportunity to partner with the PGA, and Mayakoba was on the top of the line." – Bob Ferrell, EVP of diversity and inclusion
"So we started this player-development program, and we kind of identified the 15 or 18 guys that we really felt like had the potential to make it to the PGA Tour. Our goal was to be able to provide them the resources, and World Wide Technology came in as the sponsor of our program."
WWT not only provided money to help cover the cost of development resources, but it also created a points competition among the player-development guys. The top five – bonus winner Kamaiu Johnson, Marcus Byrd, Ryan Alford, Trey Valentine and Andrew Walker – had expenses covered to compete in the Monday qualifier before Mayakoba and participate in WWT's onsite DEI programs.