Why this female-owned golf-bag business is about much more than just cool gear
Earlier this month, the LPGA announced a new partnership with Orca Golf Bags — a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based bags and accessories company — that will enable LPGA professionals and amateurs to receive exclusive discounts on LPGA-branded Orca products.
At first glance, this joining of brands appeared to be like any other run-of-the-mill corporate announcement, but there is one significant aspect that sets it apart: Orca is the only female-owned golf-bag design and build company in the United States, making this relationship between a women’s golf organization and a women-owned brand the first of its kind in the golf space.
For Deborah and Erica Bennett, Orca’s owners and founders, the recognition is the culmination of years of hard work. Having previously spent their careers in the corporate world, the duo decided four years ago to pivot into something more meaningful and fulfilling.
“We wanted to do something that was not just a continuation of business, but of business with a purpose,” Erica, seated next to Deborah, told me on a recent teleconference. “So for us, it was doing something that we loved, and that we felt we could make a difference. If we’re not doing something to give back or to make a purpose, then what is the real meaning?”
The Bennetts’ business idea started like many before them: by noticing a gap in the marketplace.
“We wanted our own golf bag that reflected us; we didn’t want the same golf bag that you’d see everywhere else,” Erica said. “So we thought, if we wanted a bag, other people would want a bag as well.”
Orca’s offerings range from stand bags for $335 up to tour staff bags for $595; among their other products are lifestyle bags, head covers and cooler caddies.
The women spent two years learning the ins and outs of the custom bag business before launching Orca. While their company had already enlisted a number of corporate and individual clients (Charl Schwartzel carried an Orca-designed bag at the November Masters), the LPGA deal represents an opportunity for the brand to shine on an even larger platform. And for the LPGA, Orca’s bags will be used as a means of unifying the organization’s thousands of members with more established and consistent branding.
“There are all these amateurs, and there are all these professionals, teaching professionals. But nobody knew them because they had a Callaway bag or a Titleist bag,” Erica said. “The idea for me is every time an LPGA member, whether it’s a player or a teacher or an amateur, walks somewhere with their bag, the LPGA branding is there.”
Striving for greater inclusiveness in golf is one of Orca’s primary objectives, and a particularly personal priority for Erica. Growing up in Jamaica, she wasn’t exposed to golf until moving to the U.S. as an adult. Deborah, an experienced golfer who played collegiately, took Erica to the course for the first time. Turns out, Erica was a natural, and she won a tournament only six months after picking up the game.
“She’s very athletic, and she’s actually an incredible golfer,” Deborah said. “And had she had those opportunities [to play] many years ago, who knows what route she would’ve taken?”
“I use myself as an example of what we’re doing,” Erica said. “Helping women who now would be me, you know, 50 years ago, or 40 years ago, when I didn’t have the opportunity to play. What I didn’t know is that I had talent. There’s several little Ericas out there, running around, who could have an opportunity to play golf. Or go where they want, and use golf as that tool. So the deeper story of that for me is using me as an example to help somebody else.”
Already proud supporters of the First Tee – Broward in Florida, Erica and Deborah doubled down on their desire to support and grow the game by sponsoring a developmental-level women’s professional golf tournament: The Orca Golf Bags Women’s Match Play Championship, which will be contested over two weeks at World Golf Village in Jacksonville, Fla., beginning on October 26. Sixty-four players will compete in a 54-hole, no-cut stroke-play event during the first week that will seed them for match play the second week. A guaranteed $50,000 purse will be shared between the two events. The tournament comprises two of the 14 events on the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT) schedule, which is the official qualifying Tour for the LPGA’s Symetra Tour.
In addition to the tournament, there will be a pro-am event, junior clinics and community-based activities, while off-course programming will include leadership forums, executive networking and education — just another example of the Bennetts’ commitment to creating opportunities for up-and-comers. Even Orca’s logo — and namesake mammal — is reflective of the brand’s inclusive mindset: a graceful, powerful blend of black and white, yin and yang. The bags’ custom designs stand out as natural conversation-starters — an essential component of generating interest in the game, Erica and Deborah said.
“When someone carries an Orca bag, they don’t feel like they don’t belong,” Erica said. “They feel like they walk with confidence, because this is a company that thinks about everyone. That aura of the inclusiveness is not a thrill for us — it’s a purpose, and it’s our goal.”
With the brand primed to enjoy a surge of exposure, I asked the Bennetts how they envision Orca’s future.
“There’s a whole generation coming up that is really more about individuality than it’s ever been,” Deborah said. “We want to be known as, if you want a really great bag, something that’s very high quality, that’s great craftsmanship, that’s going to last, and is made with a purpose, then we want to be the company that comes to mind.”
Sounds like it’s already a job well done.