Latina Golfers Association

Hispanic Community March 2021 PREMIUM
One Woman’s Quest To Level The Playing Field

Raised in the Boyle Heights community in Los Angeles, Monica Arevalo never once thought of golf—until coaches at Roosevelt High School made their rounds to all the homerooms in 2013. Their goal: recruit girls for the golf team they were trying to reinstate. There were no tryouts. If the girls showed up, they’d be on the team—and learn the game as they went. Intrigued, Arevalo, signed on.

“It wasn’t part of my growing up at all,” she said. “It also had a stereotype linked to it—that it was a rich person’s sport.”

Taking that first step into the golf world opened her eyes and changed her view of the Latina narrative.

Her coach was a member of the Latina Golfers Association.  The organization adopted Roosevelt’s golf team and provided golf clothes and clubs. One Saturday every month, they went on a golf outing to different courses. Arevalo met successful Latinas in a variety of careers who became mentors. They enjoyed the game, and it became a bond.

Arevalo has since graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in mechanical engineering and found her first job in the field. She stays involved with the LGA by teaching young girls in golf clinics and volunteering in LGA events. She sees the power of it, the community that has been built because of it and the power of golf to level the playing field for Latinas in business.

“Sometimes we put up invisible barriers,” says Arevalo. “But there don’t have to be any. Even though I’m one of a few women in the male-dominated areas of engineering and golf, I see it now as a norm. I’m there, other Latinas are there. To see more women of color having a presence in the game is exciting.”

Missing Latinas on the Links

With a background in marketing and television production, Azucena Maldonado, founder of the Latina Golfers Association, was immersed in her community. “I was always in the Latino space with elected officials, chamber people, industry leaders, educators, artists, and nonprofit leaders.”

When she moved to California from Texas, she started dating a gentleman who was an avid golfer—and he introduced her to the game. “It was a disrupter for me and took over my life. I fell in love with golf and everything to do with golf.”

The more she played and accepted invitations to charity golf events, the more she got to know another world she knew nothing about—golf and business. Contacts she met at the events often asked how her golf game was going and invited her to play.

There was a smattering of Latinos playing, and even a Mexican American Golf Association, but it was made up of older gentlemen, in their seventies and eighties, she says. “I was proud of them for what they had done and the barriers they’d broken. But we weren’t represented.”

For all the men on the course, there were only a handful of women, and even fewer Latinas. “Once they asked me to bring friends to an event and I realized I didn’t know any who golf.”

The lightbulb went off. And in 2008, she launched the Latina Golfers Association.

On a Mission: Empower Women Through Golf

Like many grassroots movements, Maldonado was a one-woman show. Her passion for golf drove her to bring Latinas into the game. “I was determined to make them feel welcome, determined to break the stereotype images and the intimidation factors of golf, and make it accessible by conducting affordable golf clinics and lessons.”

Maldonado headed to women’s conferences, networking events, chamber events, schools and more, introducing the Latina Golfers Association and inviting those she met to join.

For the introductory event, ninety-three women showed up from all walks of life, all kinds of professions, and of all ages. They were all beginners, new to the game, and wanted to learn. Maybe they’d had a partner or a colleague who played, but suddenly they no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines, Maldonado explained.

They embraced the organization and Maldonado’s mission. They are no longer sitting on the sidelines. Today there are more than 2,500 members. LGA ambassadors live around the world and LGA events are held throughout the country.

The LGA offers more than golf clinics, lessons, and etiquette workshops. “Networking events on and off the golf course build confidence, lasting friendships and business relationships,” says Maldonado. “It empowers women and gives them a presence and a voice.”

Fairway to Education

Picking up a club can have a ripple effect on young Latinas, their families and their communities.

“I dragged my little sister with me to the driving range and to play and now my brother is excited to join in,” said Arevalo. She wants them to see the opportunities golf can bring.

The LGA dedicates outreach to students. Maldonado believes the lives of inner-city girls can be transformed through golf and they can find the “fairway” to a higher education if they get involved with golf.

Through “golf in the park” lessons, mother-daughter clinics and, with funding, taking girls out to play different courses with mentors, the LGA introduces golf in fun ways. The LGA also works with partnerships like First Tee, which introduces golf and its inherent values to kids, as well as college organizations like the Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA) at UCLA. There are more opportunities out there, like the nonprofit Evans Scholars Foundation, which offers full tuition scholarships and housing to golf caddies, if girls decide to go that route.

Linking Past and Future: 50 Years in the Making

In the 1970s, professional golfer Nancy Lopez made her debut. “She was my idol,” says Maldonado. “She put women’s golf on an international stage. She was a leader and ambassador for the game of golf, an icon for women in golf, a proud Latina—and gave back to her community. She was damn good.”

Maldonado sees more of that in the future because of current pro players like Lizette Salas, who the LGA supported and honored when she was a student at USC. “We finally—finally—have a pipeline to what it takes to be on the LPGA. All this hard work pays off.”

She continues to develop connections with the LPGA tour, new initiatives with regards to diversity and inclusion, sponsorships, and partnerships. She hopes to build a stronger presence in areas like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida.

Monthly “Power Hour” Zoom chats allow members to listen to guest speakers like Julie Baez Prebula, the first Latina to own a golf course in the United States. Golf professional Lizette Salas will be interviewed this spring. They intend to sponsor the premiere of Walking with Herb, a golf film starring Edward James Olmos and George Lopez later this year.

But Maldonado’s main goal is to keep Latinas golfing. For that reason, membership is still free. “There will be no barrier for anyone who wants to get introduced to the game of golf. I want to continue seeing our women’s lives being transformed.” 

For more information, visit Latina Golfers Association

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