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The Game of Life: Maya Gaudin November 20, 2023 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Jim McCabe

“While I want golf to be a huge part of my life, I love to be well-rounded." (USGA/Elizabeth Cecil)

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Maya Gaudin succinctly explains what drives her passion for reading. “Because basically you can escape to a whole new world while you’re sitting on your couch,” said the 14-year-old.

It complements her real-world adventures, none of which were achieved while sitting on a couch. Maya has experienced so much in a short time, thanks to a marvelous talent for golf and parents who years ago made a selfless decision that reflects the power of the human spirit.

“I am blessed they chose us,” said Maya of the couple – Stephen and Cassandra Gaudin – who adopted her and younger sister Willa.

Cassandra sees it differently: “We are blessed they chose us.”

Born 1,500 miles apart in different countries – Maya in Ethiopia; Willa, 9, in Abu Dhabi – the girls are not biologically related but share in the love of their adoptive parents. Each girl was born into dire circumstances (Maya’s mother died shortly after giving birth to her). But as a couple without children who worked for the U.S. government – Stephen is retired from the FBI, while Cassandra works at the embassy in Abu Dhabi – the Gaudins saw an opportunity.

The girls would have a caring family, and the Gaudins, as Cassandra put it, would be provided with the “gift of love.”

That so much adventure and so many worldly experiences have unfolded for Maya makes her pinch herself. “It’s surreal,” she said. “Sometimes at 3 a.m., I wake up and stare at the ceiling and just say, wow.”

Maya has ties to three continents – she was born in Africa, lives in Abu Dhabi in Western Asia, and is an American citizen – and golf has further opened the world to her. Having won junior tournaments in India, Scotland, and on Cape Cod, Mass., where she summers with her parents, Maya has crossed paths with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Gary Player.

The golf world got a wider view of Maya at the 2023 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National, where she won the Girls’ 12-13 age division.

“It’s something I’m proud of,” she said. “Just going there was surreal, and winning was on a whole other level.”

Maya hopes to be back at Augusta next April, this time in the 14-15 age division, but she is quick to emphasize that her world goes far beyond golf. She attends the U.S. Performance Academy, an online school for elite athletes, while also exploring other educational options through reading, writing and crocheting.

“While I want golf to be a huge part of my life, I love to be well-rounded,” she said.