Laura Neal, senior vice president of communications for the PGA Tour, will be recognized as a “Top Woman in PR” by PR News at an awards luncheon in New York City on Jan. 23.
PR News released the 2017 class of top women in PR (public relations) in late November, which includes nearly 90 communications and media relations leaders from companies across the country, including other blue chip businesses like Viacom, T-Mobile and General Electric. Neal was nominated by her colleagues in the PGA Tour communications department.
“It’s certainly humbling,” said Neal, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who is from Dunnellon, Florida, and graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine in 1998 after studying sport management and communications/public relations. “Looking at the list of women who are in the group … just some really powerhouse not only women but organizations. What stands out most is being able to bring the PGA Tour into that same atmosphere.”
According to PR News, the list comprises women who “have made bold advances in the communications field, managing crises, developing brand messages, protecting and building brand reputations and creating content for digital platforms.”
Neal, who is 41 years old, leads the public/media relations efforts for the communications team and the PGA Tour, working with Commissioner Jay Monahan and colleagues in marketing, business affairs, broadcast and digital to grow awareness of players, tournaments and company initiatives. According to the PGA Tour communications organizational chart, her team encompasses over 40 employees in editorial development, internal communications and competition/player communications.
During her senior year at Flagler, Neal started her career as an intern with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in Daytona Beach. Upon graduating, she was hired full-time by the LPGA, where Neal said she “really grew up.” Over the course of nine years, Neal advanced from intern to vice president of public relations for the LPGA. During her tenure there, she said she was a “road warrior,” or media official working 25 tournaments a year around the country and even around the world.
“For a girl from a small town in Florida, it was quite the opportunity and learning experience,” said Neal, who attributes her experience on the road to her success with both the LPGA and the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour hired Neal in 2007 to lead communications for Championship Management tournaments, which are the events that the tour owns and operates, such as THE PLAYERS Championship. Ty Votaw, executive vice president of global business affairs for the PGA Tour, was ultimately responsible for bringing Neal on board. Votaw served as commissioner of the LPGA when Neal worked there and then moved to the PGA Tour to oversee communications.
Neal took on Monahan’s communications efforts in 2017 and later in the year moved into her current role leading the entire communications function. Neal now sits in Votaw’s former office.
Moving forward, Neal’s goals for the communications team include continuing to enhance internal communications, or how the company speaks to its employees and equips them to talk to their constituents, as well as competition/player communications. Her team is also hugely focused on international communications to build the brand of its players beyond the United States. The other goal that is of utmost importance, Neal said, is the development and promotion of players as stars beyond the traditional golf and sports media landscape.
“In order to grow our fan base, we can’t just keep talking to people who watch golf and ask them to watch more golf, we have to find new and different and more diverse fans,” she said.
Neal grew up a fan of all sports and always yearned to work for a professional league in some form or fashion. Now that she’s received this recent recognition from PR News and made it to this point in her career, she feels very thankful.
“I feel honored,” said Neal. “If you want to work in sports, this is such a great one (PGA Tour) to be involved in, as far as our athletes, the integrity and the charitable impact we’re able to make … it’s just a unique landscape of things. I feel very fortunate to have ended up here.”
*Correction: The originally published article included a quote from Neal that stated the PGA Tour had booked Bubba Watson on "Sesame Street." That was a hypothetical example of something the company is trying to do to expand its audience. However, that has not actually happened yet.