A premier pairing of partners is working with SCGA Junior to place clubs in the hands of those who may otherwise have never had a swing at the game.
Unveiling an exciting, new partnership this autumn, SCGA Junior’s player & youth development program in Southeast Los Angeles teamed with the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA and the Latina Golfers Association to offer a golf program for Latina girls in the community. Running seven Sunday sessions in October and November, the junior girls met for a substantial scorecard of instruction, teamwork and mentorship at the Don Knabe Golf Center.
“The Latina Golfers Association’s mission is to empower women and girls through golf, and we’ve always made a concerted effort to produce girls’ programming whenever possible,” says Azucena Maldonado, founder of the Latina Golfers Association (latinagolfers.com) and an SCGA Board Member. “And because Latina Golfers has such a great working relationship with the SCGA and SCGA Junior, it was natural to reach out and gain their support with this new endeavor.”
Debuted in 2008, the Latina Golfers Association has grown to over 3,500 members, including 2,500 in L.A. County, a region which sports one of the nation’s largest Hispanic populations.
Averaging 20 middle and high school-aged girls each week — all of whom are new to golf – the program is presented sans cost and provides complimentary transportation for participants from the YMCA to the course.
“And it’s not just golf lessons,” adds Maldonado. “Every week, we have speakers and role models – either virtually or in-person – and they range from people in the golf world to leaders of industry. We want the girls to know that while not everybody is going to be an LPGA player, the game presents so many different employment opportunities for their future.”
For the final session of the current program – which has aims to start anew at the onset of 2022 — CA State Assembly member Wendy Carrillo (51st District) is slated to speak to the girls.
From organizers to speakers, participants and coaches — the program is proving a unique opportunity for all.
“Growing up, personally, I didn’t really see very many Latina or Latino golfers,” says Stephanie Gonzalez, SCGA Junior’s program coordinator in the Southeast L.A. community. “Now, it’s so great to see this program for girls who are coming in from parts of L.A. where golf wouldn’t even be an option for them without this program. And the way the program has been set-up, it has removed barriers that most of these girls would have to accessing golf.”
The partnership is paving further fairways within the community.
“For SCGA Junior, it’s been a really special partnership with both the Latina Golfers and the YMCA,” says John DeGomez, SCGA Junior’s program manager in the Southeast L.A. “We want to make this game as inclusive and diverse as possible, and the way we do that is by creating these golf communities around Southern California, specifically in Los Angeles.”
Across a day of snacks, mentorship and golf lessons, the program plans to take the girls onto the course in the final sessions; as the swings build, so has the social aspect.
“It’s been so cool to see them come of their shells in such short time,” says Gonzalez, who has been a Latina Golfers’ participant since her own high school days. “In our first week, it was like hearing crickets. And now the girls come, know all the coaches names, ask a lot of questions or talk about their lives. They’ve gotten comfortable, are excited to try the programs we put together every week, and they’ve also picked up a lot of the golf lingo.”
Akin to the networking and fellowship successes marked by Latina Golfers, the new program is seeing the junior girls embrace an on-course identity.
“It’s just so beautiful to see not just how they’re blossoming as golfers – but how they’re now identifying as golfers,” Maldonado concludes. “To see it happening right in front of you; it just brings a huge smile to my face. We had a recent ‘I Am,’ session, where the girls may say something like, ‘I am powerful,’ or ‘I am bright.’ At this latest session, two of the girls said, ‘I am a golfer!'”