We recently caught up with Hailey Hunter, who you might recognize as a sports journalist with NBC Sports, Golf Channel, PGA Tour, and ACC Network, and even from her coverage during the 2022 Beijing Olympics. She is the epitome of an inspiring woman in sport. In this interview, you’ll learn more about Hailey and how she got her start on the golf course and television.
What inspired you to get started in sports journalism?
(Hailey:) Sports have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, my dad played professional hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins. My dad always coached my twin brother’s hockey teams so I grew up at the hockey rink. In the summers (off-season for hockey players), we were all on the golf course. My family introduced me to the game, and I am lucky they included me in everything they did. I realize not every girl has that experience and, without them, I would feel super intimidated to go to the golf course.
In high school, I started anchoring our morning announcements, and I loved it! That, combined with my love of sports, especially hockey and golf, drove me to chase a career in sports broadcasting.
What's your favorite women's sporting event to cover?
(Hailey:) Covering women’s golf in general is a big passion of mine. I played college golf at Ohio University and turned pro for a few months after graduating. The loneliness of traveling by yourself on tour and the stress of financing mini tour tournaments ultimately made me decide to transition into a journalism career. Those experiences were so valuable, though, and continue to guide me in my work today. I witnessed firsthand just how much goes into making it in the professional women’s golf world. I have so much respect for the ladies grinding on tour and that makes it so much more rewarding to me when I am covering the LPGA Tour and their respective mini tours.
What’s most important to you in your work?
(Hailey:) A couple of things come to mind. The first is making sure I do an exceptional job telling the stories of the athletes I cover. I love diving deep into what helped an athlete get to where they are and I hope to tell several of those by the time I close out my career in broadcasting. The second thing is making sure I’m positively impacting everyone I come across while working in this industry. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many different people and as a Christian who looks to spread God’s word and make the world a better place, I want to use my platform to positively impact others.
What have been the highlights of your career?
(Hailey:) Throughout my athletic and journalism careers there have been many highlights: covering the 2022 Olympics for NBC Sports, qualifying for and playing in the 2015 U.S. Am, and winning a handful of D1 golf tournaments. But really the achievement that I am most proud of is working as a sports anchor for WJTV-12 in Jackson MS for 2 years. I left all my friends in Florida and moved to an area I knew nothing about to cover sports, build a TV reel to get experience on camera, and to work toward the next level in my broadcasting career.
You have so many achievements to celebrate, what's one that has particular meaning to you?
(Hailey:) Just a few weeks after my move to Jackson, COVID-19 shut down the country. I was tasked with doing daily sports features for three months to keep my job during a time when no sports were being played. It was a grind! I was a one-woman band carrying around 70-pound equipment, shooting, editing, and hosting all my own video. Because of this experience, I became the broadcaster I am today and I’m proud of myself for taking that unknown scary leap alone.
How have you experienced the barriers women in golf face?
(Hailey:) Over the years playing and covering sports, I’ve seen the barriers women face but I’m happy to say things seem to be getting better. Even today, I’m usually one of the few women on the golf course and men act shocked when I blast it 250 yards down the fairway. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see a female do that. It should just be normal. I think the more we can encourage men to invite women to play, the more women feel like golf is their space too and they’ll be less intimidated to pick up a club. When I was working at the LPGA Tour, we launched a huge #inviteHER initiative encouraging men to invite their wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and co-workers to learn to play golf.
I still wish that the women’s mini tours had higher purses. Unless a player is finishing in the top ten every week in hopes of qualifying for the LPGA Tour, they’re not making any real money, yet it costs about $80,000 a year to compete and live. The men’s tours have higher purses and I hope the women’s purses continue to equalize so money isn’t the determining factor in who can chase their dream and who can’t.
What changes have you observed in golf?
(Hailey:) One huge change in the game is how much women’s golf fashion has improved over the past few years. It was always a struggle in high school and college golf with the uniforms we had to wear. I felt like a boy half the time. KINONA is a great example of how far women’s golf fashion has come and a favorite of mine on the course is a classic pleated skirt.
At the end of the day, every woman should be getting out and being active daily, no matter their sport. It’s so huge for our mental health, especially for women. It helps me feel more stress-free and confident, so being active each day is a huge game changer for me.
What advice do you have for women facing challenges and challenging the status quo in a historically male-dominated sport?
(Hailey:) 1. Erase the voice in your head that is telling you men are better than you or know more about sports than you. They don’t. Men appear to know more about sports because a lot of men show confidence when publicly talking about sports and aren’t afraid to give their own opinion. Which leads me to my next point of advice…
2. Find your inner confidence and flaunt it. I find that a lot of women feel like they have to be timid or are afraid to be outspoken but you have to let your inner confidence shine and join the men in their conversations about sports. I was intimidated to do this at first but I found that the more I joined the conversation the more I realized I knew just as much if not more than the men around me.
3. Be yourself and own who you are. Especially when it comes to broadcasting it’s important to just be you on air. I’m never going to be Holly Rowe or Cara Banks or Erin Andrews. Everyone has their own voice and personality. Your best work will always be when you’re owning who you are and the viewers can tell when you’re being your genuine self.
4. Support other women. The sports industry especially can be so catty because women are competing against each other to get the next job that opens up, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Of course it’s good to be competitive and want that next gig for yourself, but it’s so much better when you can form relationships with other women doing the same things you’re doing and build that support system. I’ve met a couple of these women over the past few years and it’s made chasing my goals so much more fun and enjoyable. One of my golf industry reporter friends will literally pass off gigs that conflict with her schedule to me and I’ll do the same for her. A lot of women can’t say they do the same but they should because we’re stronger TOGETHER.
To that end, Hailey is an outspoken advocate and supporter of women in sports. She freely invites any woman looking to break into the sports industry to message her via Instagram @the_haileyhunter acknowledging that it’s not easy to work your way up from the bottom.
Read more about Hailey at http://www.haileyhunter.com/
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