Deborah Bennett and Erica Bennett, founders of ORCA Golf – the nation’s only women-owned golf bag production company – may bring decidedly different backgrounds to the industry, but together they are a partnership of power and passion.
Deborah was born and raised in West Virginia, earned a master’s degree in public administration from West Virginia University and had a successful 35-year career in technology senior leadership at the C-suite level that included directing a global workforce of hundreds.
“I’m always moving forward; I’m always learning,” said Deborah, who even qualified for, but never joined, the United States Secret Service at age 23.
Erica, Deborah’s spouse, grew up in a small Jamaican village. Although she lacked access to essential resources, she was influenced by three powerful women: her mother, grandmother and aunt, who was a brilliant scholar. That childhood taught her how to survive, grow and flourish; it paved the way for a 30-year career that spanned public relations, marketing, television and education. With a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from the University of the West Indies and a master’s in education from American Intercontinental University, she speaks from experience when she says, “It’s time for women to realize the power they have; we are our own teachers.”
And while golf as a career was never on the radar for either Deborah or Erica, here they are today, the forces behind ORCA Golf, a company that creates custom-designed and manufactured golf bags for golfers, tournaments and corporations. Just as important as the products they make, ORCA Golf is dedicated to forging a path for upcoming generations, aiming to create a golf experience that is characterized by increased inclusivity, empowerment and sustainability.
“It’s time for the golf industry to realize that women play a much greater role in the future of golf than ever before,” Deborah said. “I want to encourage women to stay and evolve the game as a tool for learning, growing and community building. If you think technology is tough, try taking on the golf industry.”
“We may start with a blank canvas but, when completed, our products are high-quality works of art. They tell a story.” — Erica Bennett
ORCA Golf was born when Deborah and Erica, who had come to learn and love the game of golf, were in search of personalized custom golf bags but were unable to find a customer-friendly, quality-focused company in the U.S. that could accommodate their request.
“So, we created our own,” Erica said. “Our bags are custom-designed and built from the ground up with thoughtfulness, care and purpose. We encourage our customers to express themselves.”
They do so with colors, type fonts and distinct features, such as customized artwork and extra pockets, along with accessories, logos and design elements. Throughout the process, from initial ideas to final approval, ORCA keeps in close touch with its clients to make sure the finished product is uniquely their own while also highly functional. Whether catering to an individual or small groups, teams or a tournament outing, the emphasis is on creating the ultimate expression of oneself or community.
“We are here to design and deliver bags that completely represent our clients,” Erica said. “We may start with a blank canvas but, when completed, our products are high-quality works of art. They tell a story.”
Sometimes that story is helped along by the team’s own vision. ORCA won the contract to manufacture premium leather golf bags for each of the 36 players competing in this year’s International Crown, a unique LPGA team competition featuring the best female golfers from eight countries.
For those bags, Erica found inspiration in her childhood.
“When I grew up in Jamaica, I loved flowers,” she said. “When I would run to my grandmother’s home, there were always lots of flowers along the way. So, as I was thinking about the designs of these bags, I thought that I would go back to my 10-year-old self and ask, ‘What would that little girl put on there?’ The answer was flowers.”
Each country’s bag was emblazoned with its national flower: rose (USA), mugunghwa (South Korea), cherry blossom (Japan), harebell (Sweden), Tudor rose (England), ratchaphruek (Thailand), golden wattle (Australia) and plum blossom (China).
Their product vision is mirrored by their vision for the golf industry. As Deborah puts it, golf doesn’t need just another company producing just another golf bag, special as it may be.
“Golf needs a company willing to change the game and open a gateway for a more expanded vision of what it means to be a golfer,” she said.
Erica’s “learn it herself” approach is how she entered the world of design and went about founding partnerships with organizations such as Grindworks Spain, Scott Golf South Korea, Finland World Amateur Championship, the LPGA, Guy Harvey and many more. Deborah brings business acumen – including responsibility for more than 300 engineers (all men) in nine countries – building businesses from the ground up with a keen entrepreneurial sense. Theirs is the ideal combination to revolutionize an industry seriously in need of change.
They are committed to giving back and partnering purposefully with not-for-profit organizations that share their values. To that end, ORCA contributes to youth charities, women’s groups, animal shelters, ocean conservancy and cancer research.
Included on the list is the First Tee of Broward (Florida), where Erica serves as vice president of the board of directors. She is also a director of First Tee Florida for the Gold Coast, and continuing their commitment to youth, both women work with LPGA Girls Golf, for which they helped design and produce tour-grade golf bags that are offered at a discounted rate to the young competitors.
“The idea is to have every young girl feel empowered and confident just by walking on the golf course with a bag of great quality – personally designed by women who share their journey and story,” Erica said.
Among other organizations for which they have designed golf and lifestyle bags are Play for P.I.N.K. and the Humane Society of Broward County. A portion of the proceeds goes to the respective organizations.
Part of ORCA’s mission, Deborah said, is to support worthy causes through product sales.
“The eye-catching bag designs, led by our design team and led by Erica, not only are functional, but powerful in what they represent.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Karen Moraghan is the president of Hunter Public Relations, a firm that represents and promotes ORCA Golf.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
Top: ORCA Golf custom-designed all 36 bags for the teams at the Hanwha International Crown, including for Hyo-Joo Kim of Team Republic of Korea. Orlando Ramirez, Getty Images
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