Zayla White joined First Tee – Greater Austin when she was 8 years old at a time when golf was largely male-dominated.
When her parents first enrolled her in camps, she was one of few girls there, but she didn’t let that deter her and took an almost immediate liking to golf.
“I thought it was so cool that you can be your own boss. All the work you put in is a direct correlation to what you see on the course. You can take ownership of your own success,” said Zayla.
Many of the people she met in that first camp are still her friends to this day and have supported her from that initial day on the course.
As she moved through the program, Zayla got to see the growth of girls golf firsthand. According to the National Golf Foundation, the percentage of women golfers has increased by more than 20% since 2000, and girls like Zayla have been paving the way.
Through golf Zayla found her dream school, Savannah College of Art and Design, where she plays on the collegiate golf team.
“Getting a scholarship into college [for golf] is one of the biggest things that I don’t think I would’ve been able to do without First Tee. Every area of my life has been touched by First Tee and golf in some way,” said Zayla.
Zayla is a rising senior this year and continues to pave the way for young golfers following in her footsteps.
“It’s not uncommon for me to be one of the only girls at the range and definitely one of the only women of color. More and more I’m seeing young girls get into it and more and more girls like me,” said Zayla.
“Breaking those stereotypes and saying, ‘Yes, I’m a young woman of color in this game and that’s okay.’ We can still succeed and break down these barriers. Being a little bit of representation for some of the younger people who might not know that it’s possible to get into golf is really important.”
Zayla still volunteers at First Tee – Greater Austin where she grew up whenever she is home in the summers, especially in their programs aimed at young women.
When asked what advice she has for that next generation of girls pursuing golf she said, “You can be one of the first in your community or one of the first people to break a barrier. Getting into it and knowing you can be comfortable in something new is important.”
Zayla is studying industrial design and will start her senior thesis soon. She hopes to incorporate golf into it as she looks towards the end of her college golf career. Her priorities now are enjoying her final year with the girls on her team and making it to nationals, again.
There’s no doubt in her mind golf will continue to play a large part in her life even after she closes out her final year.
“When I first showed up to golf camp when I was 8, I was really scared, I didn’t think it would turn out this way. Trust yourself and have the confidence that whatever comes your way you are prepared, and you might find some unexpected surprises in your life,” she said.