Jackson was just six-years-old when she first started playing with the First Tee of Greater Houston. While she enjoyed her time with First Tee, she didn’t always love golf, the game growing on her slowly but surely. It wasn’t until 8th or 9th grade that she even began frequenting the golf course weekly, working her way up the ranks in a junior league. When the tournament was over, she just kept going.
“At first, I’m going to be honest; I did not like golf at all. First Tee itself was great, golf itself, I did not like it. It was boring, it was slow, and I would rather be at home watching TV…[But] each time you get to the next level, more and more doors and more and more opportunities opened up. When I got into high school, I was 100 percent focused. I knew I wanted to go…to college on a golf scholarship,” Jackson told reporters.
Eleven years later, she loves the game, and the game loves her. Now, the Houston native is headed to Howard University to join their inaugural women’s golf class. The university reignited its golf programs recently this past fall after a generous donation from NBA superstar Steph Curry.
On July 10, Jackson arrived in the nation’s capital, training for the USGA championship at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The U.S. Girls’ Junior players were met with a special memento from forever president Barack Obama, a member of the Country Club. Included in his empowering message was some advice: “Keep it below the hole on No. 13.”
“As soon as we get home, it’s going to be framed on the wall,” Jackson said of the signed letter.
At first, the teen was worried about her recruitment. Many class of 2021 players faced unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year their schedule took hits, they compete with older players who had additional eligibility, and the NCAA’s ban on in-person recruiting.
“I knew I was a good player and had the ability, and opportunity [to] play Division 1, but it seemed like every time I reached out to somebody, they either were full, or they didn’t know how their schedule was going to look like because of 2020 or seniors coming back,” Jackson said.
Howard’s head coach Sam Puryear’s strategy of recruiting talented but overlooked players led him to Jackson. While she didn’t initially get to meet him in person, she had already read his book, “Diamonds in the Rough,” which helped her humanize him as a coach and a person. Puryear sealed the deal for Jackson on Howard. Now, she hopes to inspire other young athletes to enter into golf, a sport still lacking in diversity.
“There’s not that many of us, so I want to be able to show people and inspire people that you don’t have to just take this volleyball or basketball…that you can play golf as well,” Jackson said.