SCGA Junior’s three LPGA*USGA Girls Golf chapters hosted the Latina Golf Association for an inspiring evening focused on the impact that golf can have in a woman’s life and what it means to be Latina – on and off the course.

The event was part of the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation’s ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive golf community where every junior belongs through intentional staff trainings, opportunities in golf for kids in underserved communities and events like this one.

The event featured a panel of high-powered Latinas including:

  • Azucena Maldonado, Founder of Latina Golf Association
  • Pilar Diaz, Philanthropy and Nonprofit Consultant
  • Jacqueline Loza, Real Estate Lease Administrator
  • Gilda Pettit, Retired Banker; Founder of Changing Paths Foundation
  • Cynthia Torres, Senior Business Development Officer, UPS

“Golf is a beautiful world that opened up my personal and professional life,” Pettit said. “I spent 30 years as a banker. I should have taken up golf at the beginning of my career because I went back to school for more education, but it was golf that put me at the same level as my peers.”

Every woman on the panel expressed similar sentiments about how much golf has influenced their professional lives. The Latina Golf Association empowers women and shows them how to leverage golf in business, and in their personal lives. As the founder, Maldonado, expressed repeatedly how the game can increase access to higher education and lead to a better life.

“You have a lot of options,” Maldonado said. “You can create your own thing, you can work for a big company, a small company, you can be your own boss. And in golf, it doesn’t matter how tall or short you are, golf is open to everyone, no matter what age you are, you can come play golf.”

Golf has historically been less accessible to women and people of color; however, the Foundation is working to change that. Thirty-seven percent of participants in the Foundation’s Player & Youth Development program are female. Additionally, within the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf chapters, 80 percent of girls identify as non-white.

Several women on the panel shared the challenges that they faced in their careers, solely based on their gender and ethnicity and empowering stories of how they overcame those challenges.

Pettit shared a story about a time she was told that she should be cooking and cleaning, instead of working in her position at the bank.

“I wasn’t going to have that,” Pettit said. “Instead of being Guatemalan, I just wanted to be Gilda. I fought inequality and discrimination in a different way – through education and golf.”

For Foundation staff member Stephanie Gonzalez, being a part of this event hit close to home. Gonzalez has been involved with SCGA Junior programming since she was a girl, earned a scholarship through the Foundation and worked as a part-time coach in the Southeast LA community where she grew up before coming on-board full-time.

“Events like these are important for future generations so that Latinas are aware that there are groups out there who can help them and support them,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t see too many other Latina golfers in the tournaments I played in or programs I participated in while growing up, so it’s also important to bring awareness that golf has become a more inclusive sport and there are opportunities for Latina golfers to play.”

The overarching message of empowerment, for both oneself and others was contagious.

“Don’t be afraid to say yes to things you may not know or be an expert in, to expand your horizons, because we will rise and bring everybody up with us,” Maldonado said.

Learn more about Girls Golf programming and opportunities for every girl to get involved with SCGA Junior.