PGA Tour executive named female Game Changer in sports industry

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Neera Shetty, senior vice president and deputy general counsel at the PGA Tour, was recently named by Sports Business Journal (SBJ) as one of 35 female Game Changers in the sports industry.

Joining other women selected from teams, leagues, media, agencies, sponsors and events, Shetty officially received the recognition at a conference in New York City in September and was featured in the Sept. 10 issue of SBJ. The recognition is given to women who are making a difference in the business of sports.

“It was great to see so many other accomplished women who have really touched so many aspects of the business of sports, and to be included in that was particularly something that I was honored to be a part of,” said Shetty, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach with her husband and two children.  

In her role at the PGA Tour, Shetty leads the company’s legal department of six lawyers, 12 paralegals and several other professionals. She is responsible for advising on all legal matters including international, employment, litigation and immigration issues for the PGA Tour and the Tournament Players Clubs throughout the TPC Network.  

Shetty recently helped the PGA Tour win the dismissal of a lawsuit filed in California by over 160 caddies seeking compensation for what they felt was misappropriation of their bodies by having to wear bibs that displayed the PGA Tour’s tournament name and sponsor. The PGA Tour initially received a motion to dismiss the claims, but the caddies appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately upheld the dismissal.  

Shetty joined the PGA Tour in 2008, which is an opportunity she never thought was possible given her background and career path. She previously served as a partner in the labor and employment department of McGuireWoods LLP in Jacksonville. She also served as an in-house lawyer and human resources vice president for employee relations with Sabre Holdings, a company specializing in travel commerce, retailing travel products and distribution and technology solutions for the travel industry. She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

Shetty played a few sports growing up, but never seriously, and she thought her long-term involvement with sports would be limited to being a fan. So, when the PGA Tour came calling 10 years ago, it was somewhat of a surprise for her to enter the sports industry, but an exciting one at that.

“It (sports) was always something that I enjoyed, but it always felt like something that was unattainable for my background,” Shetty said. “When this opportunity at the (PGA) Tour came open and they hired me, it was amazing.” 

As a result, Shetty believes it’s important for people, especially women, to have an open mind as they navigate through their career. 

“I think, especially sometimes for women, we’re sort of at an early age channeled to certain types of jobs or certain industries, and we sort of fall in line or think that’s because the other options aren’t available to me,” she said. “I think I’ve sort of demonstrated the career path where as long as you keep your mind open and you keep trying to do your best in the job you have right now, that there are opportunities maybe out there and you need to be open to them and take advantage of them when they come your way.”

Shetty added that it’s great for people to pursue long-term career goals and dreams, but that it’s also important to not become single-minded and recognize that there could be other ways to achieve an end goal, or that there might be other end goals that are just as appealing or better in the long-term. 

Shetty is the daughter of Indian immigrants who came to the United States in the 1960s. As a result, she said she comes from a background that is slightly less traditional than others in her field, particularly in sports. And throughout her career, she said she’s been told you have to fit into a certain expectation or follow the path of previous people to be successful, which is a mindset that has made her uncomfortable. So, she’s made it a priority throughout her career to stay true to herself in her pursuit of success and recommends to others to do the same.

“I think to women of color, I would say you gotta listen to what everybody says, you have to be respectful of those different opinions and why they’re being provided,” Shetty said. “But at the end of the day, you have to be true to yourself and your identity because it’s very hard to be something other than what you are and how you’ve always been.

“I think the world, as we know, is changing,” she continued. “I think in some ways it’s happening faster, and in other ways, it’s happening slower. But I think that it’s definitely changing, and we just to have to be a positive part of the change.”

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