Get to know the next generation of must-know names that are changing the game in the series Introducing, where Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are celebrating the Black women and girls who are emerging leaders and rising stars in the sports world.
Name: Kyndall Campbell
Profession: Competitive golfer
Hometown: Sterling, Va.
Interests and hobbies: Reading, volunteering, anything Marvel comics, hanging with friends and golfing with family
At age 16, when it comes to driving, most teenagers think about cars. But not Kyndall Campbell—she thinks about driving golf balls. She is a sweet, smart and demure girl, until she starts talking golf. Then her competitive spirit awakens. The young champion golfer sat down to explain how a sport that seems boring on the surface gives her an adrenaline rush like no other, why she loves beating her dad at his own game and more.
Empower Onyx: You started golfing at 6 years old. Most kids at that age are into things such as video games, Disney—anything but golf. What attracted you to a more typical adult game at such an early age?
Kyndall Campbell: At the time we had just moved to a new country, Trinidad and Tobago. My mom and her friend, who both had kids around the same age, thought it would be a good idea to have us play golf just for fun. I stuck with it and was naturally good from the start. I found a lot of success and I love that winning feeling, the feeling of my name being called out, saying I won.
EO: What makes one good at golf?
KC: If I come out and shoot 69, it’s a good day. Versus someone else and they shoot, let’s say, 81, that’s good to them. It’s different for everyone. I think anyone that plays golf is good—golf is a hard sport. The fact that you’re playing is amazing.
EO: You get excited when you talk about winning and being on the course. What gives you that rush when it comes to golf?
KC: My favorite thing to do is hit drivers. On the very first tee, it’s really nerve-racking, but after I hit my driver and it’s perfect, like 280 yards out, I’m great. I feel confident, like when you drain a 15-foot putt for birdie, it’s something that’s incomparable, something you can’t explain. It’s just such a good feeling.
EO: Golf is typically labeled as a sport of white privilege and a “dad” game. Do you see the face of golf changing?
KC: Historically, Black people weren’t allowed to play the sport. Even now, there’s still not as many African Americans on the tour that there should be. The ratio is quite literally horrible. It’s a problem. I feel a shift though, since a lot more African American children are getting out there and playing. I have a small group of friends from around the country that are African American golfers and we’re all competitive. It’s great having friends that are Black that play, knowing they feel the same way you do, they have the same hunger to succeed and be on the tour. That’s amazing and getting that exposure is important for the sport.
EO: Do you have any African American role models in golf?
KC: I love Mariah Stackhouse. In middle school, when I really started focusing on golf, I would watch Mariah Stackhouse on the NCAA championships draining putts and fist-bumping her teammates. It was incredible. I knew that’s all I wanted to do in college. I wanted to be in that exact place. It’s pushed me to be a better golfer and make the adjustments that are needed to get there.
EO: Golf can seem unattainable, with the expensive equipment and, for some, limited access to golf courses. How would you encourage a young person like yourself that’s interested in playing golf but doesn’t have the resources?
KC: I would tell them to join First Tee—it’s a national organization that teaches you how to become a better person while at the same time how to be a successful golfer. They give out clubs to the kids who can’t afford them and you also get to practice and learn the sport to see if it’s for you.
I love volunteering with my First Tee chapter. It’s given me a lot of opportunities. I was at Pebble Beach two months ago playing in a televised tournament and earlier this summer at a Clemson University tournament. Even if you don’t want to be a professional golfer, they’ll help you out with whatever you want to do.
EO: Any other golfers in your family?
KC: Actually, all four of us play golf—my mom, my brother and my dad. My dad is a teaching professional. He was also a competitive junior golfer.
EO: What’s a family golf outing like?
KC: It’s fun; everyone in my family is competitive. My brother always tries to see if he can outdrive me or if he can do better. It’s a great family dynamic.
EO: Last question: Best golfer in the family?
KC: See … that would cause a lot of debate. I would say myself. My dad would say himself. Let’s just say, we’re very close.
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