“One-Handed Lady Golfer” Gianna Rojas Proves Golf Has Unlimited Opportunities
It’s time to stop asking “can I?” and time to start asking “How will I?” - Gianna Rojas
On the 31st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a piece of legislation that made descrimination based on disability illegal, we sat down with “one-handed lady golfer” Gianna Rojas, founder of Adaptive Golfers and a contributor to the Make Golf Your Thing movement, to discuss what ADA means to her and how golf has changed her perspective and her life.
Rojas was born without fingers on her left hand. From a young age, she faced discrimination, exclusion and bullying due to her disability (or, as she calls it: different ability).
“I grew up with a lot of challenges. We moved a lot, so I was always the new kid and I was different [because of my hand],” she explained. “Even through high school I was bullied. I was locked in a locker for three hours, called names, pushed down, left out, not asked to the dance. All of that.”
Despite this Gianna was able to come into her own and developed a life for herself. However, there were still instances in which Gianna still felt left out or different. One of these instances led her straight to the game of golf.
“My husband, his friends and their wives used to play golf on the weekends and sometimes they would invite me to join them. We would sit and talk about their morning rounds and I wouldn’t have anything to contribute,” she explained. “Then they would go back out and I would go back home and I started feeling like that little girl again who wasn’t included or able to keep up with what they were doing.”
After this, she and her husband became determined to find a way to help Gianna make golf her thing, though they struggled to find resources in the industry and instructors who knew how to teach those with different abilities, a situation she describes as “frustrating”.
“When you go to golf clinics for beginners, the first thing they teach you is grip. One hand goes here and one hand goes there. So automatically, I was lost,” Gianna remembers. “I realized there’s this missing niche between those with different abilities and the industry.”
It was this instance in which Gianna decided to found Adaptive Golfers, a foundation whose mission is to bring the game of golf to ALL. Gianna works to train instructors and facilities in the industry so they are better suited to make the game more inclusive.
“[Adaptive Golfers] is for anyone who has cognitive, physical, sensory, health, age related challenges. Anything we can do to get people out of their bed, their house and their head. Using golf as a therapy is a beautiful and amazing medicine.”
Because of her outstanding work with Adaptive Golfers, Gianna was asked to be on the Marketing & Communications Work Group for the Make Golf Your Thing movement that combines the efforts of leaders in the golf industry to ensure golf now and in the future is open to everyone, a mission that closely aligns with Gianna’s.
“I am honored to have been asked to sit at the table with the highest level of the industry for Make Golf Your Thing,” Rojas stated. “I like to describe it as an ‘all industry lean in’. They’ve heard the message from a lot of different groups that need a voice in the industry.”
Because of the impact golf has had on her life, Gianna is determined to use the tools she’s been given and the platform she has developed to help others discover the same joy she has in a sport that she describes as “a purpose and identity” for her.
“Make Golf Your Thing looks to empower those who think they can’t, or have been told they can’t, or maybe think they don’t belong that they do and they can,” she stated. “Golf allows people to feel included and that they’re part of something. It allows you to play the way you want to, whether with your grandpa, your friend, your sister or by yourself. This is action behind words, it’s a collective effort to reach out to EVERYBODY no matter who you are to Make Golf Your Thing.”
Now, on the 31st anniversary of the American’s With Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that is younger than she is, Gianna is grateful for the efforts and strides that are being made in the world and particularly in the golf industry, though she still recognizes the room for growth.
“It’s huge for people with different abilities to start to discover how unlimited their options are, and it’s thanks to things like the ADA Act that help with that,” she finished. “Don’t question if you can do something, don’t question if you CAN play golf, because the answer is yes.”
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