Tiger Woods is still the highest grossing sports celebrity after seven years, earning an estimated $90 million in 2009 (down from $110 from the previous year), much of it coming from sponsorship deals, according to Sports Illustrated. It is no wonder why Woods has inspired other golf hopefuls, especially young African-Americans, to follow in his lucrative footsteps. One of those is Mariah Stackhouse of Riverdale, Georgia. Stackhouse is already a legend among her teen age group. So much so she was recently named 2011 player representative on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Board of Directors, along with fellow young player Trey Kaahanui.
Player representatives act as the voice of the AJGA membership, which has exceeded 5,000 each year since 2006. Stackhouse is literally following Wood´s course, as Woods was a former member of the AJGA.
”It is an honor to be the player representative for 2011 because there are many girls in my class who are AJGA members,” says Stackhouse. “The fact that I was selected from this group of such exceptional girls humbles me because I am aware that many of them would have been a good pick as well.”
Just a high school junior, the 16-year-old has been playing in AJGA tournaments for the past four years. Like Woods, Stackhouse started out young, with the encouragement of her father. “When I played golf as a youngster it was because my dad would take me to practice, and I honestly never knew anything different. Once I reached the age of 13 and truly began to understand the game, I began to love it,” she recalls. “Now, I could not see my life without golf. I have made friends from all over the world, traveled to places I would not have otherwise, and I have college choices that might have been more difficult to obtain without it. Golf is like family in my life, and I hope it stays that way forever.”
Stackhouse is currently ranked No. 19 in the Polo Golf Rankings and has claimed victories at the 2009 Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic and the 2010 AJGA Junior at Steelwood presented by AT&T.
Like Woods, Stackhouse is well aware of her position as a role model and encourages others to try golf not only as a sport but as a way to move up the corporate ladder once you enter the workforce. “I believe golf would open up a completely new world to the young adults or kids who consider playing. Most importantly are the scholarships that become available through golf at any skilled competitive level, she points out. “Also, golf is the signature sport of corporate America, so it would be excellent to know how to play because your boss most certainly will. I think golf is important for people of any color because of everything it has to offer throughout the development of a young adult. Responsibility, work ethic, time management, and sportsmanship are all values that are instilled within all serious golfers.”
The AJGA (www.ajga.org <http://www.ajga.org/> ) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young golfers who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA has an annual junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of nearly 5,000 junior golfers from 49 states and 30 countries.