Measuring the progress of diversity in golf — Interview with Bailey Davis — Must-click women’s golf links

The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, July 22, 2021

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How do you measure diversity in golf?

If you ask Bailey Davis who her role models are in the golf world at the moment, the answer might surprise you.

“There’s no one I can think of that I strive to be more like. I’m just trying to become my own person.”

That might appear arrogant to some, but the 18-year-old Maryland native oozes self-assurance and wisdom when discussing her newfound platform in the game. 

Last week at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship, it was Rose Zhang that lifted the trophy, but it was Davis that truly “won” the event. In an interview with Wake Forest alum Emilia Migliaccio on Golf Channel and looking directly into the camera, Davis’ said that her main goal in the U.S. Girls’ Junior was to show other little girls that looked like her that they could have success in the traditionally white, male-dominated sport. 

It was poignant and, as it circulated around social media, everyone in the industry wanted to know more about this young woman that grew up playing at a public golf facility and got her start in the game through the LPGA USGA Girls Golf program. 

All of the attention was a bit intimidating for the teenager, but Davis recognizes the importance of being a role model for young women.

“It was very exciting for me but it was a lot to handle all at once,” Davis told The IX in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Before I went up to play Rose, I gained a lot of followers and I had a lot of media following me. I was extremely overwhelmed.

It was nice for me to be able to tell people why I play golf why I love the sport what I want to do for younger girls that may look up to me so that’s the part I really enjoyed about it. That’s part of the reason why I play is that I was that young girl once that was looking up to the LPGA players. It’s nice for younger girls to look out there and see someone that that wants to talk to them and wants to learn more about them.”

Growing up African-American, Davis also remembers not having anybody to root for that looked like her or that she felt like she could connect with representationally. In fact, it was their mutual love of the color pink that led Davis to join the Paula Creamer fandom that was so popular in the early to mid-2000s. 

But, it was that lack of people of color on Tour that she noticed as a child that stuck with her and it’s propelled Davis to want to do as much as she can to support the future generations of the game.

“I think it comes from me growing up as an African-American girl and looking on the LPGA Tour and not seeing really many if any African Americans out there at that young age,” Davis said. “It makes you think, is this game for me? I think that’s where that came from but also, no matter the color, I want any girl to feel welcome with me and that’s something I really tried to do at the U.S. Junior. I loved all of them and I loved all the attention from them. They were so adorable.”

We talk a lot about diversity in golf, but we often don’t truly know if a difference in that area is actually being made or not. The game would like to think so, but since the impact isn’t easily quantified, it’s just plain hard to tell.

Sure, there are many more visible and celebrated Black and Latino and LGTBQ+ golfers out there than we have ever seen in the history of the game, but for change to be meaningful, it has to stick. It has to be consistent. It has to be lasting.

Moreover, seeing players like Bailey Davis succeed seems to tell us that we are heading in the right direction. The fact that she already has a massive support system within this sport behind her is encouraging too. Plus, there’s the added benefit that even in her youth, Davis understands the significance of her platform and is enthusiastically taking on personal responsibility to make the golf world a better place for her successors. 

But, golf can’t let that weight just fall on the shoulders of an 18-year-old college freshman. This game has to continue to grow and evolve and it will continue to take a collective, concentrated effort for diversity and inclusion in golf to be fully realized. 

Was last week a small win for that goal? Absolutely. However, let’s not rest on our laurels just yet because until there are hundreds of Bailey Davises falling into a lifelong love with golf, much more still needs to be done.

This week in women’s golf

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Five at The IX: Bailey Davis, U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship Runner-Up

How did you get your start in golf? How excited are you to start at Tennessee?

My grandfather took me to the range when I was about 6 years old. He gave me a 3 wood and I hit a few balls and he said wow she has a pretty good swing for a 6 year old. So then I started taking some lessons and I started playing tournaments when I was nine. I didn’t really like golf when I was younger. I was kind of forced into it by my parents because of the opportunities. But, I started receiving college letters in about the 7th or 8th grade and that’s when I realized oh I’m pretty good. Then when I started doing college visits and they rolled out the red carpet for me on my college visits. I think then I realized how good I was and then I really start to love the sport because I saw these opportunities I can get from it and I started playing amazing competition from all over the world and that was really exciting to me. I never had a dream school. I never would have imagined that I’d be going to an SEC school when I was younger but that’s how things worked out.

How electrifying of an experience was it for you to play in the final match at the U.S. Girls’ Junior against Rose Zhang?

I love playing against Rose. She is amazing competition. She is an extremely talented player but she’s also very humble and one of the sweetest people out there. I absolutely love playing against her. We had a really good time together. I played my heart out and I played really well but she just played better and so I think it was a really good learning experience for me. The entire week was a really good learning experience for my game. Each match I played my confidence went up and my game got better so I think the entire experience was going to prepare me for my future in college.

Was there any memory in particular from your time at the U.S. Girls’ Junior that especially stood out?

I loved all the support from the local Marylanders around the area. I’m from Maryland and the championship was in Maryland so that was really special to me. I was 6 down at one point against Rose and they were still cheering me on they’re still saying I can win this and so that was something I really appreciated and I really enjoyed.

Do you think playing at a public course as opposed to being a member at a country club really makes any difference in terms of your skill in the game?

It can if you let it. Some of the other girls have a lot more resources like if they live in California or Florida or Texas where it is sometimes warm year-round. I think that they have an advantage in that sense but also I think the hard work I put in has closed that gap between me and some of the country club girls. I think it’s really all about the amount of work you put in. Yes, they may have better resources. Yes, they probably have more time in the winter months if they do live in a nice area, but I think it’s really just about how much time, effort, and dedication you put into the sport.

What will you be studying at Tennessee?

I’ve never really had a passion that I wanted to study. But, I took AP Economics my senior year of high school and I enjoyed it so I figured it’d be something I could try in college.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Sarah Kellam