On May 14, McGregor High School won the Class 3A Texas State Girls Golf Championship at Grey Rock Country Club in Austin. For three members of the team, the journey to lifting the trophy started long before regional or even district competition. It began five years ago, when they were introduced to the game at LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Waco.
Gwen Parmer established the chapter in 2014 after struggling to find a local program in which her two daughters could learn how to play golf.
“They have three older brothers who would always play with Dad, and they’d feel left out,” said Parmer, who researched LPGA-USGA Girls Golf and loved that it wasn’t just about golf skills. “It was about health and mentoring. I understand that these types of programs are super important to build up women. Nobody else was doing it, so why not me?”
Girls Golf is the only national junior golf program devoted to providing girl-friendly environments for juniors to learn the game.
Gwen's first two members were her children: Maggie Parmer and Paige Gilstrap, future state champions.
“I wish every young girl had someone to go play with because I know that if I didn’t have my own sister to go with me, I probably wouldn’t have gone,” said Paige, 17, who was the state championship individual silver medalist. Maggie tied for third place as the team prevailed by 34 strokes over second-place Lago Vista High.
Teammate Kiley Coats, 16, has also been with the Girls Golf chapter since its inception, and she says the game has taught her personal responsibility.
“With golf, you have all the ownership,” she said. “It’s completely on me and not on other people.”
Maggie, Paige and Kiley are also eLeaders. This is a national volunteer and mentorship program for Girls Golf teens who are looking to give back to their local chapter. In addition to making a difference in their community, they build skills that will help them prepare for life after graduation.
“We wear our medals and the little girls hold them and are amazed,” Maggie said. “I think that we inspire them. It’s exciting to see what they’re going to become, and we want to help them. My sister was always there to help me.”
One of the beneficiaries of the girls’ mentorship is the fourth member of the McGregor High team, Abby de Jesus.
“She showed up one day and they took her out to the course and taught her some stuff,” said Gwen, who connected Abby’s parents with a private golf instructor. In one year, she went from shooting in the 120s to the 80s.
Abby is now an eLeader as well, along with the fifth member of the team, Bella Valdez.
“Girls who have never picked up a club come back and have a big smile on their face, and it’s good for the older girls too, because they know they’re helping somebody,” said Gwen.
Not only did Girls Golf bring the team together, it helped the squad develop into state champions. The USGA’s investment and impact in the program has been realized through an extensive annual grant program, which has totaled nearly $2.5 million since 2015 and has helped increase participation in girls’ golf in nearly every state. Grant money helped the Waco chapter purchase and install a simulator, which has enabled the girls to practice every day.
“It’s rainy here in the spring and very hot in the summer, but we never miss a day of practice,” Gwen said. “Their team state title is a direct result of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program.”