During Hispanic Heritage Month, Troon spoke with Azucena Maldonado, the passionate and energetic founder of the Latina Golfers Association, to learn how she is empowering women to utilize golf as a tool for personal and professional growth.
“I want people to view the Latina Golfers Association as a vibrant, active group that is welcoming women, and Latinas in particular, into golf. Our members can meet new people while participating in unique experiences. We want them to say, ‘Hey, this is something that I can enjoy. I feel welcomed and a connection to a group that embraces me.’”
Maldonado’s California-based organization was founded in 2008. While nationwide membership numbers have impressively grown to 5,000 people and their social media reach is double that, Maldonado still remembers her humble beginnings.
“It was a real challenge to partner with golf courses who were not necessarily open to doing things a little differently. Clubs were resistant to change, particularly with a relatively unknown demographic in some golf circles.
However, Alhambra Golf Course (Alhambra, Calif.) graciously opened their doors to us. It was an instant success: 60 women attended the Latina Golfers Association’s first clinic hosted by Fernando Vasquez. He was our number one instructor and supporter. Vasquez has since been promoted to general manager at Alhambra. We are forever grateful for our relationships with him, Alhambra and now Troon.”
As the Latina Golfers Association approaches its 15th anniversary, the COVID-19 pandemic halted expansion for two years.
“We could not gather as initially envisioned. When restrictions eased, those clubs had record demand. We were happy for them. From our standpoint, the limited availability meant fewer clubs had the capacity to participate with us, even though our group outings were always full. Adding new clubs is a prominent goal in 2023.”
America’s three most populous states are California (39.6 million), Texas (29.7 million) and Florida (21.9 million). As such, the Latina Golfers Association’s largest concentration of members is in Southern California, with 3,000 members registered in the greater-LA area alone. Group events are also offered in San Jose and San Diego.
In Texas, Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth are channeling steady growth. Florida’s high concentration of courses in Orlando and Miami have yielded positive results. Arizona will also be targeted in the years ahead.
Tiempo de Fiesta
Maldonado’s inclusive attitude and marketing experience greatly influenced the structure of her organization. “Fun, personable and engaging events are part of our DNA! We want you to have a blast, then utilize positive word-of-mouth to bring more women and Latinas into golf!
We began with clinics on the range, but these were not enough (on their own) to make a true player. Our clinics have evolved into ‘fiestas’ consisting of swing lessons, food, drinks and music. We have always sought to create memorable experiences through golf. I am thrilled to now see clubs implementing what we have been doing for years. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Golf’s Underappreciated Heroes
New players are prone to learning gaps when graduating from a practice facility to an 18-hole layout. Maldonado is embracing some often-overlooked assets to bridge this space.
“In short (pun intended), we love short, 9-hole and executive courses! They are critical for participation growth. Furthermore, these courses really lend themselves to community-based experiences. They fulfil what golf is all about: community and family. Our request to golf course owners, operators, elected officials and recreational players is simple: ‘Please continue to support these courses!’”
Avoiding Sticker Shock
Another well-documented barrier to entry is the cost of equipment. Maldonado has embraced this challenge with developing partnership offers and educational seminars for members.
“Yes, Pebble Beach is expensive, but municipal courses are nearby, affordable and fun.
Yes, Saturday morning tee times are priced accordingly. Twilight rates provide 9 and 18-hole rounds (and great sunsets) for half the price.
Yes, Callaway makes world-class equipment. They also have an economical line by Strata. You can purchase a full set for just $399. Our partnerships with the PGA of America, Callaway and others help our members better understand these options, and thus, reduce barriers to entry.”
Regardless of where you live, the Latina Golfers Association’s newsletter is free and worth registering for. Recipients are treated to equipment discounts, PGA of America swing videos, golf business webinars, new event information and more.
How to Support
During Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, TeeOff will invite anyone booking a tee time through their online service the chance to round up the total coast of their reservation to an even-dollar figure. The Latina Golfers Association will receive these charitable funds.
The Future is Bright
On Sept. 24, Maldonado was proudly recognized by the NFL’s LA Chargers as the Latina Heritage Awardee and her foundation was gifted $10,000. As Maldonado reflects on the future of women and Latinas in golf, she closes with these thoughts.
“The Latina Golfers Association believes that when we become golfers, we become part of a universal family. Golfers are the family that is ready to help each other. This family effectively breaks down gender and cultural barriers. Thank you to everyone who continues to support our special purpose!”
For more stories on Troon’s DE&I initiative and associates