Like many other recent college graduates, Raef Godwin had a job as a server while trying to determine his future plans. One day, a customer came in who would change the course of his career and life.
A sports enthusiast, Godwin recognized the restaurant’s guest, former collegiate and professional basketball player Kent Benson, and served as his waiter that evening. Benson was one of Godwin’s sports heroes and their exchange at dinner led to an invitation to join Benson for breakfast the next morning. Benson recognized Godwin’s enthusiasm and knowledge, and asked him if he wanted to work in sports.
“Kent Benson’s kindness completely changed my life and career,” Godwin said.
The Jacksonville native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Florida in 1991, parlayed his chance meeting with Benson into a successful career in sports marketing and management. Godwin is now VP, Advertising Strategy & Operations for the PGA TOUR.
“I loved sports as a kid, but I had no idea that my passion for sports could evolve into a career,” Godwin said.
As a result of his connection with Benson, Godwin relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and began working as a community relations assistant at the Continental Basketball Association. Shortly after he arrived, he knew he had found his calling.
“It’s important to find something you have passion for and apply it to your career pathway,” he said.
Godwin wanted to learn more about the business of sports and enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he earned a master’s degree in sports management in 1996. His career path included working at the Orlando Magic, the National Basketball Association and the ATP Tour before he joined the PGA Tour as a broadcast project assistant in 2000.
Over the years, Godwin’s responsibilities have advanced as the PGA TOUR has grown and expanded, responding to changing media landscapes and audiences to entertain fans with a variety of platforms. Positions and promotions in digital media, advertising operations and client services led Godwin to his current role.
“There’s great value to getting into an organization, doing the hard work and learning the business,” Godwin said.
Godwin oversees a department of more than 40 talented colleagues responsible for the global strategic oversight of the buy and sell side of advertising operations including high impact display, live and on-demand video, social media, radio, podcast, email, database, search and TV. As a hiring manager, Godwin looks for talented candidates who demonstrate curiosity, a willingness to doing things that haven’t been done before, and who aren’t afraid of a challenge.
“With curiosity, they are going to think about the business innovatively and creatively,” he said.
Godwin attributes his longevity to the PGA TOUR’s culture of collaboration and innovation, and the organization’s charitable impact.
“The PGA TOUR brand is so well respected, but the heart of the organization is its community involvement and charitable giving,” Godwin said. “The PGA TOUR has made a significant impact on so many lives throughout Northeast Florida.”
As Godwin’s experience shows, a career pathway can be unexpected and transform to reflect industry changes. He started out as part of a small team at the PGA TOUR, which has flourished into a news and entertainment brand that engages, inspires and positively impacts golf fans, partners and communities.