A Mission of Renewal: Supporting a New Generation of Golfers
Along a humble, well-kept street in the city of Bellflower, a family of six resides. Inside the front door, stacked neatly and in order of ascent, are four sets of golf clubs, arranged with seeming intent from junior sticks up to dad’s bag. The clubs, and the home, belong to the Pedroza family, and while the residents may be too modest to admit as much, they very much represent a growing road toward golf’s future.
And the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation has helped pave their way.
The Southeast Los Angeles community in which the Pedrozas reside — akin to some of the Riverside, Orange County, San Fernando Valley and Southwest L.A. regions in which SCGA Junior programming exists — isn’t considered a traditional SoCal golf hotbed.
But traditions, much like the faces of golf, are evolving.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The year was 2016, and fueled by her husband’s love of the game, Blanca Pedroza did what she does best for her family: research, organize, plan and teach.
With a master’s degree in education, Blanca paused her career as a social worker to homeschool the couple’s four kids in her own state-recognized charter school. In concert with her lesson plans, the Pedroza curriculum includes all manner of intellectual and cultural endeavors, ranging from extracurriculars in engineering and art, to heritage, nature skills and sports.
“It’s all about exposure to different things. If they like it, they like it. I never want to force them into activities they don’t enjoy,” says Blanca, seated at one end of the family dinner table.
She takes a beat, smiling across at her husband, Eric.
“With golf, it started with Eric’s love of the sport,” she says, “so we wanted to see if the kids would develop that same interest.”
Her search led to the nearby Southeast L.A. programs of SCGA Junior — and the five course locations within the family’s community — and Blanca signed up the Pedroza’s two eldest kids: then-eight-year-old Carolina and seven-year-old Alejandro.
The introduction to golf wasn’t without its hesitations. A first-generation American, Blanca’s Mexican roots provided little cultural pathway to the game. Eric, a longtime lead superintendent for a general contractor, grew up playing SoCal courses with his father, whom, like his mother, was born domestically and raised in Mexico.
“I was slightly intimidated at first, especially when I went without Eric,” recalls Blanca. “And when the kids started telling other people, their Latino friends, that they were playing golf, there was that reaction, a little surprise like, ‘Oh, but golf is for this type of people.’”
The couple is candid about both recognizing and experiencing the game’s antiquated cultural narrative.
“Truthfully, at some courses or with other junior golf programs, whether it’s the way you look or the way you speak, you’ll still get that look like you’re an outsider, like it’s ‘their’ sport and not yours,” says Eric.
Within a short time, however, such feelings of daunt and encumbrance soon abated.
Though golf at its most lofty professional heights may offer few players or personalities who match the Pedroza’s backdrop or heritage, the couple and their kids soon discovered the inverse with SCGA Junior. To wit, in its 2021 annual report, half of SCGA Junior’s coaches and youth participants identified as Latinx.
“I often tell friends how comfortable we feel with SCGA Junior,” says Blanca. “I’ve never felt looked down upon. And the program is very diverse, which was a surprise to me at first. It makes me feel comfortable that I can just drop off my kids. I feel like it’s a safe community. The coaches treat everybody equally, and it’s great to see so many different cultures represented.”
Eric has also recognized the heterogeneous tee sheet at SCGA Junior.
“The diversity is huge,” he says. “We show up to courses and there are Asians, East Indians, Blacks, Hispanics, Caucasians. And everybody gets along great. These programs, with kids from all walks of life and income brackets … golf needs this. Golf needs kids from these backgrounds. There are bridges being created through these programs.”
From the perspective of the progeny, the view of culturally similar role models at SCGA Junior has also made an impact.
“They’re inclusive with everybody, and it makes it a ‘homey’ environment for everybody,” says Carolina Pedroza, now 14 years old. “There’s representation for everybody. It can be hard when you don’t see yourself represented in a certain sport or a certain area of life, but at SCGA Junior everybody is able to see themselves there.”
Creating the game’s next generation of players by not out-pricing participants is another important factor that retains many families.
“We’re not the family who would otherwise be able to sign up the kids for golf all the time,” says Eric Pedroza. “But, with SCGA Junior, they present the opportunity to play courses which are close to our community and for our bracket. The cost for them to play, for the programming, it works for us and our budget.”