As part of the Velocity Global Impact Award, the LPGA and LET will celebrate players and their efforts in giving back to the world and their local communities off the golf course.
Announced in March, Velocity Global, the Official Global Work Platform of the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET), are sponsoring the Velocity Global Impact Award. This honour will celebrate players who have helped to grow the sport of golf and to inspire the next generation of athletes to have a positive impact on the world.
Estoy bendecida — I am blessed — comes up regularly when Lizette Salas talks about her family, her golf career and her community on and off the golf course. The gratitude for these three essential elements of her life propels her to support programs for children with limited financial resources.
“It was always a dream of mine to give kids the opportunity to at least have some knowledge of the game of golf. There's this stereotype that it's only for a certain type of person and, with my story, I felt like I could impact a child's life whether they turn professional or not,” said Lizette, whose golf story began more than two decades ago.
Exchanging work for golf lessons
Her father, Ramón Salas, who immigrated from Mexico in the 1970s, traded handyman work with Jerry Herrera, the teaching pro at California’s Azusa Greens Golf Course, in exchange for golf lessons for his 7-year-old daughter. It was the beginning of what Ramón calls Lizette’s “American Dream.”
Lizette became the first in her family to earn a college degree, after receiving a golf scholarship to the University of Southern California, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology and was an All-American college golfer. Then came the thousand-mile road trips in her dad’s pick-up and overnights in rest areas crisscrossing the country to compete in Epson Tour events.
“She convinced us of her potential, and we all became more and more involved,” said Ramón, her proud chauffeur, caddie and number one fan during the year she tried to make it to the LPGA Tour. A year full of memories, laughs and tears for father and daughter that lead to what Ramón considers another “great blessing.”
In the last qualifying event for the LPGA Tour in 2011, Lizette birdied the final hole in the LPGA qualifying tournament to get into a three-hole, nine-woman play-off for the final Tour spot. She then birdied all three extra holes. Lizette earned her LPGA Tour card and shortly after started giving back to her family and her community.
San Gabriel Junior Golf Program
“We started with about 40 kids, and we only charged one dollar for two hours. The goal was to grow the golf community in my hometown. My nieces and nephews have been in the program. My brother-in-law was a coach during clinics. I have seen young kids start, go to college and come back to help younger kids,” said Lizette about the San Gabriel Junior Golf Program, created in 2012 with her dad and coach Herrera.
“My community, my hometown, has always had my back through the ups and downs, through almost calling it quits a few times. They know my capability and they're there if I need a shoulder to cry on,” added Lizette, who dreams to create scholarships for the San Gabriel kids to continue higher education “regardless of where their parents come from.”
LPGA*USGA Girls Golf
More than a decade later, with one LPGA Tour victory and five Solheim Cups representing the United States, Lizette is still very involved with her community project and has expanded her support to nationwide initiatives for children such as LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, which operates in more than 500 communities and reaches close to 100,000 girls through the game of golf every year.
Given that, according to the World Golf Foundation, young Latinas are one of the fastest growing groups in the game, Lizette has become the perfect Ambassador for Girls Golf.
“Wherever she is on tour, she brings her Latinaness spirit with her. She is such a beautiful representation of our culture, something very important for us in the U.S.,” said Azucena Maldonado, founder of the Latina Golfers Association, which has been part of Lizette’s familia since 2008.
Youth on Course
“I hope the future in golf represents diversity, inclusion and accessibility all over the country regardless of your financial status, race or ethnicity. That’s something that I had to face as a young kid,” said Lizette while announcing her support to yet another program, Youth on Course, an organization that provides young people with access to play rounds of golf for $5 or less at nearly 2,000 courses in addition to other life-changing opportunities.
“To partner up with an organization like Youth on Course, that gives children the opportunity to play golf regardless of their financial status, is a great cause,” added Lizette, who is joining fellow professional golfers Harold Varner III and Jennifer Kupcho as Ambassadors to make golf more accessible for young people.
A role model for young aspiring golfers
Lizette seems to have found new energy and motivation to support more causes and excel on the golf course. “I guess I’m just a grinder. I’m a fighter. I know nothing is ever going to be handed to me,” said Lizette, who counts Nancy Lopez and Lorena Ochoa among her role models.
At 32, Lizette Salas is also becoming a role model for young aspiring golfers. “I think with just sharing my story and saying, you know what? I'm still here. I'm still fighting and I'm not going anywhere. I think just that message, people relate to that whether it's on the golf course or in life,” she said, after overcoming her own struggles with mental health and sharing her experience.
“The biggest risk that I took was leaving everything I knew back in 2020 during Covid and ignoring the signs of anxiety and depression. It taught me the biggest lesson about myself and the people around me and how important mental health is,” said Lizette, who came out of a tough journey with two emotional runner-up finishes at the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and AIG Women’s Open.
“I learned how lonely it can get out here, which quickly taught me who my true friends and who the people that love me the most are,” said Lizette, bendecida again this week at the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America with the company of her family, her community and the children she supports.
Velocity Global Impact Award
Toward the end of each season, the LPGA will produce a list of nominees, and the Velocity Global Impact Award Committee will name three players as Award finalists. Each finalist will be featured in a docuseries-style content piece sharing their personal story and impact on the game. The winner will be determined through a combination of a fan vote and voting by the committee, and will be announced annually on International Women’s Day, March 8.