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FOR RELEASE: March 13, 2021

CONTACT: Emily Tillo, THE PLAYERS,                                                                 

PRESS RELEASE: ‘Training U Powered by CDW’ exposes area high school student-athletes to career opportunities beyond sport

For the first time, Training U takes place during THE PLAYERS; PGA TOUR pro Harold Varner III participates in live chat with students, surprises them with laptops courtesy of forum sponsors

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida – Earlier this week, several dozen high school student-athletes from Duval and St. Johns Counties and youth development organizations (First Tee and MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation) participated in “Training U Powered by CDW,” a sports and business education forum that aims to introduce high school student-athletes to career opportunities beyond the sport they play.  For the first time since the forum’s introduction in 2018, Training U Powered by CDW was hosted during the week of THE PLAYERS, affording attendees a special opportunity to experience the PGA TOUR’s flagship event after a morning of interactive programming.

Less than 10 minutes into the forum’s programming, presenting sponsor CDW and its technology partner Intel delivered an exciting surprise. Shortly after his introductory remarks, CDW’s North Florida Field Sales Manager Troy Okerberg presented a $25,000 donation to Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub to support its mission of reducing the technology barriers that impede youth from reaching their full potential.

After the surprise donation, the attendees gleaned insights from a panel discussion, “Beyond the Sport: Igniting Passion for a Profession,” moderated by Donna Orender, Former President, WNBA, CEO, Orender Unlimited and Founder, Generation W, Inc., and featuring the following panelists: Shannon Miller, 7-time Olympic Medalist and President, Shannon Miller Worldwide; Michael Collins, ESPN Golf Analyst and former PGA TOUR caddie; MaliVai Washington, Wimbledon Finalist and Founder, MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation; Len Mattiace, 2-time PGA TOUR winner and Founder of the Len Mattiace Foundation.

In addition, the students interacted with ‘Career Champions’ as well as representatives from four area colleges and the U.S. Navy, all of whom provided greater insight into the skills and experiences they found critical to their successes in their respective fields. They include sports law, sports marketing, player development, community advocacy, golf course management, and sports medicine. One student will be offered a $500 scholarship to Florida State College at Jacksonville, to be awarded at a later date by a random drawing.

The biggest surprise of the day was saved for the very end of the program. During the “Fireside with Firsts” discussion featuring Korn Ferry Tour president Alex Baldwin, the first female president in PGA TOUR history, as well as First Tee alumni Sara Diaz (National Marketing Manager, PGA TOUR), Drake Mosley (Golf Course Properties Data Analyst, PGA TOUR) and Mombo Ngu (University of Florida student), PGA TOUR professional and CDW ambassador Harold Varner III made a live virtual appearance, sharing his experiences as a ‘first’ and engaging in a question and answer session.

During his concluding remarks, Harold Varner III announced that the $25,000 donation presented earlier to STEM2 Hub would be used to purchase every student in the room a new laptop computer in order to help support them in achieving their educational and career aspirations in today’s technology-driven world.

The forum ended with students embarking on a hosted course tour of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, an extra special experience this year given reduced on-site capacity. Led by PGA TOUR employees from CORE, one of the TOUR’s employee resource groups, the students met various PGA TOUR representatives including Harold Varner III himself who greeted them as soon as the students arrived on the course, while maintaining social distancing.

Darionna May, a junior at Raines High School, said that the leaders she learned from and interacted with “gave me encouragement and a lot of things to think about.” May is a member of the Raines golf team and enjoyed her first visit to THE PLAYERS on Wednesday. “I didn’t think that golf was about business, numbers and technology…it was a new opportunity to me.”

 “CDW and Intel are proud to support these students through our donation to Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub,” said Troy Okerberg, North Florida Field Sales Manager, CDW. “We share the belief that all students should have access to technology, and this is one way we can help make an impact in the local communities where we live and work.”

“When our PGA TOUR employee resource group, CORE, established this forum three years ago, they had a single goal – to think beyond our sport to inform and inspire student athletes about the wide variety of job opportunities and careers available throughout sports,” said Marsha Oliver, Vice President of Community and Inclusion at the PGA TOUR. “We could not be more honored to host these young men and women at THE PLAYERS Championship.”

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