Game Changers

PGA WORKS Collegiate Champion Tiana Jones, PGA, Shares Her Inspiring Golf Story

By Hayden Lewis, PGA
Published on

If you’ve ever visited or taken a tour through the Home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas, one can’t help but take notice of the history and aura the Association carries with it.  Part museum, part laboratory, part classroom, part office – you name it. The Modern Home of Golf is already leaving an indelible mark on the game.
Of the many nods to the game’s greats and exhibits that ‘wow’ visitors and guests is the mural located against the back wall of the state-of-the-art indoor short game practice area.  The artwork displays twelve of the game’s most influential women who are trailblazers in the game of golf including the likes of PGA of America Members Suzy Whaley, Judy Alvarez and Paige Cribb just to name a few.  As your eyes scroll across the series of photos, you get to the second to last pose featuring fellow PGA of America Member, Tiana Jones.  

Her story – like many of the women featured in this mural – starts with an innocent spark of interest in the game followed by the wonder and dreams for where it can take them in this life.

In the Jones’ household, golf was a cornerstone.  Both Tiana’s father, Paul Jones, and mother, Freddie Ann Jones, are avid golfers.  Their love for the game trickled down to Tiana along with her two sisters, Tiara and Aqueela. Born in Akron, Ohio, Tiana says she had a golf club in her hand by the age of three and from there the rest fell into place.  
“Even though I spent most of my time playing in the bunkers when I was younger, I genuinely enjoyed being on the golf course and it just became more comfortable for me,” says Tiana.  “Golf was embedded within the culture of our household.”
When she started playing competitive golf at the age of seven, Tiana made it her mission to match all of the members in her family, saying,  “I didn’t like being second-best to my sister and even lower on the totem pole to my mother and father.”  
She was able to take that mission a step further – one-by-one she beat all of her family members.  This led to an impressive career over the course of her junior golf and high-school years – including a solo title in the 2009 Ohio High School State Championship.  She was the first from her high school – male or female – to ever do it. 
Tiana admits her competitive perception of the game didn’t allow her to see golf as one big industry.  She describes it as just learning to love and play the game – something her family always did together from the very beginning.  
Says Tiana: “I just wanted to play in and win as many tournaments as I could to try and make it to the tour.” 

Tiana pursued this dream by enrolling in South Carolina State University where she played golf for four years.  She led her team to multiple national championships and was named team MVP for women’s golf in each of her four seasons.  Tiana also won the women’s medalist and individual titles at the 2012 and ‘14 PGA National Minority Collegiate Championship. 
The Championship is now known as the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship (PWCC), and its 37th edition this week is at the renowned TPC Sawgrass.  Tiana says the years playing in the PWCC were some of the most memorable times she had playing competitive golf.  She also recognizes how competing in the Championship allowed her to see golf in a new lens and pave the way for new opportunities to unfold right in front of her.
“Every year I competed in the championship, I remember meeting students from PGA Golf Management University Programs,” recalls Tiana.  “It certainly piqued my interest, and I wanted to learn more.  The last year I competed with South Carolina State, I remember having a moment of thinking to myself ‘what’s next – where are you going to have the most impact?’  This was when I realized I could combine my passion for golf with creating impact for others who look like me.  So I decided I wanted to become a PGA of America Golf Professional.”
Tiana took those next steps and enrolled in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s (UMES) PGA Golf Management Program. Over the next four years, she would capture an additional three first-place titles at the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship — the most all time by any PWCC competitor.  After completing her time at UMES, she became just the seventh Black female ever to earn their PGA of America Membership. 

On all accounts, Tiana has undoubtedly made a name for herself within the golf industry and is committed to making the game better and the industry more welcoming.  She believes in the power of golf and encourages other student-athletes to not think their journey starts and stops on the golf course.  
“The PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship was made for these student athletes – it’s their major,” says Tiana. “I hope after the week is done they take home more than the weight of how well they played.  While the Championship is a great stage to showcase talent on the course, these student-athletes are getting a better understanding and realization of how the careers and areas they want to pursue after college are also available in the golf industry.  This translates to off-course success.”  
The Championship resonates deeply with Tiana on many levels.  She says that the brand and narrative that PGA WORKS brings elevates the event to a whole new level – even compared to when she competed.  
“Playing in this event made me feel welcomed in space and competition at the highest level,” says Tiana.  “I got to play with other skilled players who looked like me and understood diversity in the game of golf.  It gave me the feeling of what it was like for LPGA and PGA Tour Professionals I watched growing up and continue to watch today.  It’s the brightest spotlight on the biggest of stages in collegiate golf.”
While there has been a lot of progress made to make the game more inviting, Tiana believes there is more work to be done to welcome new professionals from underrepresented backgrounds.  She can recall, even early on in her playing career, those subtleties of people treating her and her family differently became more obvious as she competed in all kinds of tournaments.  
“You get to a point as you grow up where that stuff becomes more noticeable,” recalls Tiana.  “I embraced and channeled those challenges.  To me, it didn’t matter what others thought, I was going to give them something to look at – that something was the leaderboard, the way I carried myself, the scores I shot, and the kindness I try to show others.  All the things that golf teaches you.”  
Even more, Tiana remembers distinctly her family being the only Black family to belong to the local country club in their community.  Tiana says even though her father and mother acquired multiple club championship titles, their family still faced challenges and were looked at differently.  

She doesn’t let the past stop her from instilling those values she’s learned from the game of golf.  Her resume has expanded across household names like Topgolf and historic Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas under the mentorship of fellow PGA of America Member, Ira Molayo, and returning to her alma mater at University of Maryland Eastern Shore to coach the men’s and women’s golf teams.  

These days you can find Tiana on the third floor of the Home of the PGA of America, working alongside the Education Faculty to help develop the next generation of PGA of America Golf Professionals — a seemingly perfect fit to continue her golf journey and leave a storied legacy that all started with a family’s love for the game spilling over.  
Looking back, Tiana reflects on her own journey and uses it as an example to hopefully forge new paths for others.  She says her father, who passed his Playing Ability Test (PAT) but never pursued PGA of America Membership, ingrained the core values of golf and showed first-hand what the game can do if you share it with others. 
“He was the one who coached my high school team and, between him and my mom, lit the fire for the love I have for the game today,” says Tiana.  “Along with coaching my high school team, he also led golf programs for inner-city kids in Canton, Ohio.  I saw him use the game in so many ways for good.”
Tiana has certainly taken her father’s trade to heart and feels proud to continue carrying that history now at one of the highest levels in golf.
“If I love the game this much, everyone else should have the opportunity to love it too,” says TIana. “To understand what I understand about golf – to me, it should be a no-brainer for someone else to try it and see what path it can lead them down.”  
To learn more about PGA WORKS and the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship, please click here.