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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

  • Mekhi Gibson poses in front of USGA signage

From classroom to fairway: Mekhi Gibson's impactful USGA internship

An opportunity presented to Mekhi Gibson as a University of South Carolina Department of Sport and Entertainment Management student opened the door to a prestigious internship with the United States Golf Association.

Gibson, a rising sophomore, attended the department-hosted Sport Entertainment & Venues Tomorrow (SEVT) conference in November of his freshman year. The annual event includes a job fair and networking opportunities with industry leaders.  

"I met Joe Jackson, the talent acquisition manager for the USGA," Gibson says. "At first, I just wanted to ask him to be a source for a paper I was writing, but after talking to him for a while he encouraged me to apply for the program."

Mekhi Gibson sitting at the NBC Sports TV desk for the US Open

The program Jackson encouraged Gibson to pursue was the USGA Pathways Internship, a 10-day immersive experience designed to expose outstanding college and graduate students from diverse backgrounds to different careers in golf by providing training, education and networking opportunities.

The USGA created the internship in 2022 in an effort to address opportunity imbalance in golf. "There are more than two million jobs within the $84 billion golf industry, but only a small fraction are held by those from underrepresented communities," according to the USGA website. 

"It's important that we continue to open opportunities for everyone to work and play in golf," says USGA CEO Mike Whan. "Relationships are built and fostered on-site at championships, and the framework we've created with the Pathways Internship allows students to get that same opportunity, which can help to jumpstart their careers."

Gibson applied and was chosen along with 23 other students from all over the country. They spent 10 days at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, including attending the 2024 U.S. Open. The internship included  a series of classroom and behind-the-scenes training sessions at the U.S. Open as well as direct exposure to key championship departments including player services, merchandising, operations, media and hospitality. 

Mekhi Gibson and other USGA interns get a behind-the-scenes look at Pinehurst Resort

Gibson and his fellow interns also met with key golf industry leaders as well as business executives from outside the industry.

"My favorite part was connecting with my fellow interns. We all came from different backgrounds (and some from different countries), but we all bonded well and became friends very quickly," Gibson says. "I think what will be most helpful is the advice that USGA President Fred Perpall gave us. He told us, 'A great life is pursuing what you can give.' That resonates with me because we try to put value in accomplishments and materialistic things instead of seeing how we can help others succeed."

The USGA annually funds more than 270 paid internships across the country. USC Department of Sport and Entertainment Management 2024 graduate John Salazar and current student Tanner Lewis are taking part in this year's P.J. Boatwright Jr. Internship Program through the USGA's network of 57 Allied Golf Associations. 

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