National Hispanic Heritage Month: Finding a Career Path from Mexico to the United States
By Anthony Witrado
Playing the game of golf is not a luxury afforded to a lot of people in Michoacán, a state in central Mexico just off the Pacific coast.
Certain factors -- be them economic, social or, more recently, the pandemic -- make golf’s accessibility limited in some areas. Those in Michoacán who can play consider themselves lucky.
Alejandra Sanchez is one of them.
The game is a bit more prevalent in Morelia, the state’s capital city. Sanchez grew up around the course because her family valued what it brought them. The elders made sacrifices so it could become a family activity, with Sanchez’s grandfather and father being members at the nine-hole Club de Golf Campestre Morelia, teaching Sanchez the game since she was not much older than a toddler.
As her love for the game grew, so did her ambition to play it more competitively. So, Sanchez moved to the United States to play college golf at Bethune-Cookman and St. John’s (New York).
“There’s not a lot of schools at the college level offering scholarships or that have a golf team in Mexico,” Sanchez said. “So if I wanted to continue playing, I had to come to the United States.”
Now, she is 25, and her life’s journey runs parallel with her love of the game. And during National Hispanic Heritage Month, she’s excited to show other Latinas there is a place for them in golf.
“It’s special for me, and we want the game to be welcoming to everybody,” said Sanchez, who also lived in Cancun, Mexico with her family. “Being from Mexico, I can be a role model.”
Earlier this year, Sanchez interned with the American Junior Golf Association. And for the last several weeks, she interned at the 43rd Ryder Cup thanks to PGA JobMatch.
PGA JobMatch helped Sanchez earn her Ryder Cup internship, where she worked in merchandising, and is meant to help the golf industry better reflect America’s makeup by promoting short term employment opportunities to underrepresented people looking to acquire golf industry experience through the PGA’s championships. Given that vision, Sanchez was an ideal candidate.
PGA WORKS is a related initiative that is designed to diversify the golf industry’s workforce by using fellowships, scholarships, career exploration events, and the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship (PWCC) to inspire and engage talent from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue employment positions across the golf industry.
“[PGA WORKS] would often send emails for available jobs or internships, so I applied through JobMatch,” Sanchez said. “I just kept following up and asking for updates, and when I found out I got it, I was very excited.”
In November, Sanchez will take a full-time job as an assistant professional and tournament coordinator at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida.
Sanchez started her college golf career at Bethune-Cookman, where she played for PGA Member Scooter Clark, now Director of the PWCC. Her teams there won back-to-back PWCC championships, and she later transferred to St. John’s and competed in the event as an individual.
Her sisters, Andrea and Martha, followed her path from Mexico to the U.S. on golf scholarships. Both played in the 2021 PWCC at TPC Sawgrass, and Alejandra was also there watching and providing encouragement.
During her four years at the Championship, Sanchez went through the event’s Career Expo, where she was exposed to more of the golf world than just competition. Those events opened new sightlines for Sanchez, who started to think of the game as part of her long-term future.
“I really enjoyed those tournaments because you got to meet people from the golf industry,” Sanchez said. “I was able to network with people from the PGA of America and the AJGA, and other golf companies. ... It really helped me grow my career.”
Her ultimate goal is to become a Tournament Director for a major golf championship, something that would be a significant and historic milestone for a Latina woman. She’s also advocating for other Mexicans to aspire to careers in the game.
“I feel like the sport is growing globally, and you want to see more people, more cultures involved, and the PGA of America and PGA WORKS are doing a great job of that,” Sanchez said. “I’m an example for my sisters, and I’ve been helping other people from Mexico who are interested in playing the game at the collegiate level.”