During his high school days at St. Charles Preparatory School, an all-boys Catholic institution in Columbus, Ohio, Solomon Hughes competed in soccer and basketball.
There was a smattering of NCAA Division II basketball offers for the 6-foot-2 guard, but he opted to head off to college to pursue a degree in marketing and business.
That journey led him to the University of Cincinnati, just down the freeway on I-75.
Four years later, Hughes had his degree in marketing from the College of Business, and after a couple of internships during his sophomore and junior years, he began looking at potential careers.
His internships were varied and interesting — General Electric Aviation in Cincinnati; Delta Airlines in Atlanta; United Airlines in Chicago.
In the fall of 2015, Hughes was once again looking for something different to diversify his resumé. A friend of his had interned with the American Junior Golf Association, a non-profit golf organization in the Atlanta area, and convinced him to attend a weekend retreat where potential candidates are screened and then selected.
As things worked out, Hughes liked the AJGA and the AJGA liked him. A portion of 2016 was spent traveling and working at various AJGA tournaments around the country.
Not having any kind of golf background was a bit refreshing, said Hughes, who now works full-time for the organization and is serving as the Tournament Director for this week’s AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes, which teed off Tuesday morning and will conclude Thursday afternoon.
“I’d had about five internships through college, and it was an awesome experience,” Hughes said recently during an interview with The Telegram. “I had a lot of different partners that I worked with and it was a lot of good resumé building experiences. I was able to make good money while in college.”
Still, working for a golf organization might have been a million miles away from his usual thought process, until he said, that weekend of internship evaluations.
“After the summer of 2016, I had one semester left to get my degree so I finished up that December,” Hughes recalled. “The more I had spent time around the AJGA the more fond I grew of it. It seemed more like a fantasy job but turned into something I really wanted to do.”
Upon graduation from Cincinnati, Hughes sent a letter of interest to the AJGA indicating his desire to work for the organization on a full-time basis.
As they say, the rest is history.
“I was looking at a position as a communications director, but they thought I had a better fit as a tournament director,” Hughes said. “They offered me the job to start in January 2017, and it’s been a lot of fun,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he likes the opportunities that the AJGA presents, observing there is a lot of upward movement of staff as well as career moves into other golf organizations.
“I like to push the envelope, but right now I’d like to stay as long as possible,” he said.
As an African-American golf administrator, something that is not widespread among sports organizations, Hughes sees an opportunity for himself to become a leader in bringing more minorities into the sport.
“I’ve been on a couple of recruiting trips to get in front of young people to bring more diversity to the sport,” Hughes said. “I’ve been to some historical black colleges, and I think there’s a lot of choices ahead for young people.”
Hughes said his grandfather was an avid golfer, and he has been involved with the PGA Minority Career Championships in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“I look at it as an opportunity to be a leader and bring women, African-Americans, Asians, all types of people into the game and be in the forefront of that movement,” Hughes said. “I’ve been welcomed with open arms into the AJGA.”
Hughes credited AJGA Executive Director Steven Hamblin as being a leader in developing young people through the internship program.
“It’s rare when CEO’s want to hear what you want to accomplish and what your goals are,” Hughes said. “I’ve been to different parts of the country and so far I haven’t run into any situations where I thought I was being singled out because of my race. I think that might be because of the energy I bring.”
Hughes said the AJGA has been involved in a program of diversity and inclusion, and that is something of which he is immensely proud.
“I think the more diversity you have, the more ideas you can discuss and you evolve as an individual and as an organization,” Hughes said. “It’s like a melting pot of ideas.”
Through his nearly 18 months of full-time work with the AJGA, Hughes has learned about the rules of golf, tournament operations, course set-up, communications and a wide-range of other responsibilities.
“It’s such a cool game, and I do get to play some now,” he said. “I’d like to see our events on TV and do more to educate people about what we’re doing to advance young men and women to have an opportunity to play college golf and get an education.”
While serving as the tournament director at Buffalo Dunes, Hughes will oversee a full-time and intern staff of nine.
“It’s a team effort and I’ve got some outstanding young people helping out,” Hughe said. “We try to have fun, but we also work hard. And when you’re on the road as much as we are, you just have to make it a friendly atmosphere in which to work.”