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updated 2:54 PM UTC, Jul 28, 2018

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Anna Liotta brings generational expertise to effort to save golf

Anna Liotta, who has become a national guru at unlocking generational codes, is taking her knowledge on the road, at the behest of the Professional Golfers Association, seeking to reinvigorate older generations as well as help provide clues on how to interest more millennials in the game.

As she heads for San Diego next month to meet with 100 golf-management professionals, she is aware that there's a sense among PGA executives who have watched the total rounds of golf played decline by 2 percent a year for the last decade, that what could be at stake is the very future of golf.

Asked how she became an expert on what makes different generations tick, the founder of Seattle-based Resultance Inc., smiles and responds that as the 18th of 19 children, she just paid attention at home, adding "I was immersed in a multi-generational world."

"Whenever there's a wedding, graduation or family gathering, my family has six generations that are represented," she added. "There are 300 first cousins, 56 nieces and nephews and 47 great nieces and great nephews."

Liotta, daughter of a PGA professional and recipient of a golf scholarship while a student, has had golf as a life-long focus and says she is thus pleased to have been tapped to try to restore some of the sport's lost luster by focusing on different strategies to employ with different generations.

She was the only keynoter at a Sports Diversity and Inclusion Symposium in September of 2014 and the PGA, whose turn it had been to host the annual event attended by executives of all professional sports, invited her to keynote their annual conference in Indianapolis two months later.

Following her presentation as the first-ever female keynoter on the national conference stage in the PGA's 98 years, the organization contracted with her to consult on how to attract more millennials, Gen Xers and women of all ages to the game of golf.

"I have been working with the PGA on developing programs and messaging to attract and retain new players as well as re-engage lapsed golfers across the generations." She said.

Liotta elaborates on the generational issues facing golf by ticking off the challenges by generation.

"For boomers, it's their life stage with retirement and health issues, Gen Xers are focused on young families and Millennials are not interested in investing as much time or money into the game as their parents." She explained.

Liotta's role includes strategy for attracting more women to golf and noted, in an interview, that drawing more women golfers poses the same challenges as addressing the array of generations.

"Attracting women across the generations to the game of golf is a mission-critical initiative for the golf industry," Liotta said. "More women than ever are interested in playing golf, but it's up to the golf professionals and facilities to win the right to have them return after their first experience."

"Boomer and Gen Xer women are at the peak of their career and have high expectations of their customer experience on the course but unfortunately, often they are disappointed," she continued. "Millennial women have grown up playing competitive sports and are ready to bring their athleticism to business golf, but millennials demand a whole new level of inclusion and service from golf, or they take their disposable income to the yoga studio, cross-fit gym, or soccer field."

Part of her commitment to bring more women to the game was her launch 12 years ago of Women Taking a Swing at Cancer, a fund-raising event she presided over for several before turning it over to Gilda's Club, which has changed its name to Cancer Pathways and whose support for the golf event faded.

Liotta recalls that as a university student, she encountered what for her was a life-shaping video titled "What you are now is where you were when."

"That 1989 experience shaped my research in my organizational development studies and I wrote my honors thesis on generations," she recalls.

"What continues to delight me is that the more you learn about the formative things of an individual, the more you know about them," she added.

Running down the generations Liotta said: "Baby boomers want to tell a lot about themselves while a Gen Xer wants to cut to the chase and get to the bottomline. They self disclose after demonstrated value."

Millennials, she said, "want to tell you about themselves first, and how unique they are, what they are up to and each thinks he or she is uniquely fascinating."

Because many view millennials (born between 1980 and 1999) as the most challenging generation in the workplace I asked Liotta to expand on their characteristics.

"They are changing workplace expectations forever, and driving their managers crazy in the process," she said. "They are the first generation to have no expectation of retiring from the company they are working for today."

"Millennials typically decide in their first 30 days whether they will remain with a company for six, 12, or 18 months," she added.

Liotta four years ago wrote what has become a key source of information about the generations. It's called "Unlocking generational codes: Understanding What Makes the Generations Tick and What Ticks Them Off."

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