Since moving from Pearland, Texas to DC earlier this summer, a Howard University freshman Kendall jackson and his father, Mauritius, talk on the phone several times a day. They discuss her lessons, what she ate for lunch and recap her golf practices. And almost every time, before hanging up, Maurice reminds his daughter of something.
âI’ll call him between classes and he’s like, ‘Kendall, you know you’re writing history, don’t you?’â Jackson said. “I’m like ‘I know. But I never really want to. It’s overwhelming, but in the best possible way.
The 18-year-old is one of four first-year students in Howard University’s Division I women’s golf program who will compete for the first time this fall. In 2019, Howard announced he would launch a Division I men’s and women’s college golf program for the first time in the school’s history with financial support from the NBA superstar. Stephen curry. The Bison previously only had Division II and intramural club teams for golf.
Led by the coach Sam puryear, the Howard women’s golf team is made up of eight players from across the country and is expected to participate in several fall invitations through October. âAll of these ladies have the ability to do really special things,â says Puryear, whose previous training stages include Stanford University and Michigan State University.
Kendall attends Howard on partial athletic and academic scholarships. Although her golf skills got her to this point, she didn’t always enjoy the sport. Maurice first enrolled Kendall in a program through First Tee – Greater Houston at the age of 6. The non-profit organization aims to teach young people life skills through golf. At the time, Kendall was already practicing karate, an activity she preferred.
âI enjoyed the First Tee program. I didn’t like golf itself, âsays Kendall. “I just thought it was really slow and really boring, and I would rather be home watching TV.”
But as Kendall played, she realized she had skill for the game. She could hit the ball pretty far, and one of the instructors at First Tee told her family that she had the potential for “maybe. be playing at the college level, âsays Maurice. He soon realized that golf could be a path for Kendall, an only child, to receive a college scholarship. Maurice moved from Kansas City, Missouri, Texas to play football on a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University before transferring to Texas Southern University, where he played alongside a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Michael strahan. Maurice wanted his daughter to share her experience of being part of a college team.
“Knowing that at that time, when I started her, that a lot of the golf scholarships for girls were not being used, I was looking for the best way to make sure that A) she was attending college, then B) if she could go to college and get some sort of sports scholarship, âhe says.
Kendall didn’t understand her father’s plans until she was in high school, but by then golf had become her passion. Maurice says his daughter could beat him in a round of golf when he was 13, and by that time they had the option of attending one of two local high schools. The Jacksons chose Pearland High School because it had a better golf program, Maurice says.
At Pearland, Kendall quickly established herself as one of the school’s top golfers. In 2018, as a freshman, she became the first golfer in her school to qualify for the State Class 6A Girls Golf Tournament. She didn’t make the cut in her sophomore year and the COVID-19 pandemic ended her junior season earlier, but last April Kendall returned to the state tournament by rallying to the bottom nine of the regional tournament. . Only the top three individual regional finalists qualified for the state tournament.
âIn the past nine days, day two, it was the most focused laser I’ve ever been on the golf course,â Kendall said. “I was able to shoot under 4 for a total of under 67 to 5 to move from 20th overall to third place and qualify for the States.”
Puryear already knew what Kendall could do on the golf course. A year earlier, in the summer of 2020, he had noticed her name and results online. Puryear reached out and asked him to send him swing videos, tournament results and his upcoming competition schedule. Unbeknownst to Puryear, Kendall and her father had already read Puryear’s book, Rough diamonds, before landing the job with Howard.
Still, she kept her options open during the college recruiting process. Howard wasn’t even initially on his list. âI didn’t really want to go north because less than 40 degrees is too cold,â she says. âI’m like, no, I’m staying in the south: California, Texas, Florida, anything below us is good. ”
But the more she heard about the program, the more Howard became a âbuzzword,â Kendall says, not just to herself, but to her family. It was as if everywhere they went they met someone who went to Howard or had a connection to school. She engaged to Howard last november. âIt went from ‘I don’t really want to go here’ to ‘I don’t want to go anywhere but here’,â she says. When asked now what she looks forward to at Howard’s, she says, âSeeing real snowâ¦ Coming from Houston, I’ve seen snow about four times in my life and even then, it hasn’t. wasn’t really snow, it was just ice. “
For Puryear, it wasn’t just Kendall’s golf game that stood out. He discovered that she also played the piano.
âI’ve been a coach for a long, long time. And one thing I noticed is you find students who are really, really talented, âhe says. âSo not only is she a very good student, she is a good golfer, but she is also a good musician. And going back to my days at Stanford, I noticed that some of our best players, some of our academically astute players, all had those same touch points.
Kendall has several goals with golf. She wants to win a tournament as an individual and with a team in Howard. Subsequently, she wants to play on the LPGA Tour. But one of its most important goals is to help develop and diversify golf. Stanford graduate Mariah stackhouse is currently the only active full-time black player on the LPGA Tour.
âFor golf to grow you have to introduce more and more people who probably wouldn’t view the sport as something they can play,â says Kendall.
This role continues at Howard, where she intends to use her platform to inspire others. Kendall wants to show other African American women and women of color that golf can be a sport for them too. And as her father likes to remind her, she is part of a historic group that will likely draw more attention to historically black colleges and universities. She wants to be a role model and a leader for all who pay attention to her.
âBecause you never know who’s looking,â she said.