Olympia Fields, Ill. – Lakareber Abe hit her 9-iron approach shot stiff into the ninth green Tuesday at Olympia Fields Country Club, almost registering an eagle as the ball stopped inches from the hole.
There was raucous applause, led by her 17-year-old sister, Tezira. Their parents, Daudi and Fiora, celebrated the shot, too, then turned to Tezira and suggested she could caddie for her sister if she made match play on Wednesday. Tezira did an about-face and said, Uh uh. I’m sleeping in tomorrow. You’re crazy.
Just call it a case of sibling rivalry. Tezira and Lakareber Abe are like any other sisters. One minute they are rivals and the next they’re each other’s most ardent supporter. They took up golf together, a game they’ve come to love, thanks to their father, who used to play to a single-digit handicap.
The two African-American sisters, from Angleton, Texas, used to watch Daudi play every Sunday. They never hit any balls; they just followed him around and watched.
Finally one day, when Tezira was 11 and Lakareber 9, their father took them to the First Tee of Houston.
It was wonderful, said Daudi. There were lots of kids from different walks of life and they were able to play among themselves.
At 11, Tezira had a growth spurt and couldn’t compete as well as she would have liked in dance and tennis, so she turned to golf. Lakareber, who also danced, decided golf would be her sport.
It would be easy to say they’ve been hooked ever since, but that’s not exactly the case. Tezira briefly quit when she was 15, but rediscovered the game a short time later.
Both sisters are now in it for the long haul.
I like it because it’s more challenging than other things that I played, said Lakareber.
I’m happy for them, really, although they think I’m mad at them, said Daudi. In reality, I want them to do well.
They are here together this week competing in the 63rd U.S. Girls’ Junior. It’s Tezira’s first time in the championship, second for Lakareber. Tezira failed to make match play after shooting back-to-back 79s while Lakareber registered rounds of 79-75 and made it in via a playoff.
Never mind that. They are products of the First Tee and LPGA-Girls’ Golf initiative. They’re still involved in the First Tee program, but not as often because of summer tournament commitments. Tezira swears by the program because it has taught her life lessons on and off the course.
While playing, she focuses on the four ‘Rs’ that are constantly put to the test. Those are: replay the shot in your head; relax while swinging; be ready to play; and redo what just happened and think of whether the shot could have been executed better. The First Tee offers six-week sessions and Tezira never views them as an inconvenience, mainly because she has fun. Same goes for 15-year-old Lakareber.
If they weren’t traveling around the country playing in so many tournaments in the summer, they’d participate more in First Tee.
It’s a great way to meet other girls, said Lakareber.
That’s key to both of them because their hometown of Angleton is so small that it doesn’t have a movie theater. There’s not much around, said Tezira. In fact, other than The Wilderness Golf Club at Lake Jackson, which is 15 minutes away, the two must travel about 50 miles to play other courses or to shop. It’s an important point because the two usually only have themselves to compete against. They swear their dad won’t play with them because they beat him all the time now.
They have become fiercely competitive.
It gets really intense, said Tezira. Sometimes we won’t talk to each other.
Sometimes it does get intense, admitted Lakareber.
Added mother Fiora, They like to compete against each other but they’re also best friends.
Both have their eyes on playing collegiate golf one day. They hope they continue to improve and will remain advocates of the First Tee program and the LPGA-Girls’ Golf initiative. But what it boils down to is that they have each other – even if they don’t like to admit it.
Ken Klavon is the USGA's online editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.