In golf, one of the best skills a golfer can have is the ability to drive the ball as far down on the course as possible. Not only can Alexis Belton do that; it’s her specialty.
Belton is the number one ranked American long driver, and the third best long driver in the world. She won the PGA WORKS Collegiate Golf Championship in 2013, a signal that her career was only getting started.
“When I won that tournament, I might’ve only been playing golf for maybe four years or something like that,” she said of her victory. “It was honestly an event in itself that really helped me to love the game of golf to a deeper level, knowing that I could be free and be myself on the golf course. It was monumental in my career.”
Winning tournaments and continuing to hone her skills as a long driver, Belton also noted her experiences with the lack of diversity in golf. It put her championship win into perspective.
“The culture of golf, although it’s evolving and changing, it can be a little intimidating,” she said. “It’s like asking someone to go in any space, right, where you don’t see yourself in.”
Belton said that PGA WORKS collegiate championships are one of the highlights of her career because it showed that there were people of color just like her playing golf professionally. It was an affirming realization, and something she continues to bring up when diversity in golf is brought to the discussion.
The LPGA has a diversity statement, where within it they cite the story of Renee Powell, an African American golfer who was denied lodging during the tournament in 1967. The rest of the tour put out an ultimatum saying “we stay, or we all go” in solidarity with Powell. Since then, women’s golf has gotten better with making sure voices in the minority are heard, and that people of all races are represented. Since 2013, the proportion of ethnic minorities in women’s golf have jumped from 11 percent to 19.5 percent, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“It’s really important for those roles to be seen so that underrepresented [groups] can actually dream to have the opportunity to be in spaces that are not really built for them,” Belton said. “It’s important because it grows the game. It truly grows the game. It says, ‘okay, here’s a whole demographic that doesn’t know anything about golf that doesn’t know how to get to the course,’ but we want to show that there’s a space for them that there’s a safe space.”
As golf continues to change and draw in multiple ages, genders, and races, Belton will continue to show that she can compete and drive the ball down the course hard and remind the world that diversity should be celebrated.
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