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Teeing off: Rice’s newest club sport drives toward inclusivity

Sophomore sport management and business majors Brayden Bowin and Alexa Vela co-founded the Rice club golf team in February 2024. Kathleen Ortiz / Thresher

By Ana Rivera     4/2/24 11:38pm

Sophomores Alexa Vela and Brayden Bowin often golf at Memorial Park, down the road from Rice campus. The two sport management and business majors established the Rice golf club on Feb. 14 of this year. According to them, their leadership reflects a vision that seeks to broaden the appeal of golf, making it more accessible and meaningful to a diverse group of people.

“When I first came to Rice, I thought this would have been the perfect place for golf, but that wasn’t the case,” Bowin said. “Through the Rice golf club, we aim to popularize the sport across campus and cultivate a culture that will eventually be as prominent as other club teams here.”

According to Bowin, this statement isn’t just an observation; it’s a call to action. The Rice golf club is attempting to challenge common stereotypes and invite a broader community to experience the fellowship and joy the sport can foster.

“The biggest misconception in people’s minds is that golf is a rich and pretentious sport, exclusive to those with access to a country club,” Bowin said.

Vela’s own entrance into the world of golf at 6 years old reinforces her club’s goals and the sport’s potential to resonate across all types of backgrounds. Nobody in her family grew up playing golf. Instead, it was watching Tiger Woods at the Masters and seeing a commercial for a youth golf program that began her golf journey. 

“Golf has taught me and allowed me to really hone in on patience and confidence, providing me with a sense of empowerment when I feel like nothing else really has,” Vela said.

Bowin’s personal journey with the sport also started young and evolved into a passionate pursuit.

“My dad would take me to the course back home, but it wasn’t until high school that the game became more serious for me,” Bowin said. “When I actually played on the team and realized that I was good my senior year, I knew that golf was going to be a big part of my life.”

Bowin and Vela were inspired to start their journey out of a shared love for the game and a deep passion for the industry. They saw an opportunity to blend their academic pursuits with their personal interests, aiming to make a significant impact in the sports world. 

“Our mission and visions for Rice club golf are to invite people to the game regardless of background or experience,” Vela said. “Golf is unlike any other sport because you spend hours with people at a time, and it’s not always about competition.”

Vela’s words shine a light on the club’s plan to leverage golf for building community, embracing inclusivity and fostering personal growth. Vela addressed the need for broader representation within the sport, especially for female golfers at Rice, as another motivator for creating the new club.

“The fact that Rice does not have a women’s golf team was something that gave me drive,” Vela said. “Through this club golf team, it provides a space for girls on campus to play, granting them a place they can play competitively or just for fun.”

As they look forward, Bowin and Vela share their excitement for what lies ahead for the Rice golf club. They anticipate a community that not only achieves competitive success but also deeply values inclusivity, unity and mutual respect.

“We’re looking forward to meeting people who like golf,” Bowin said. “Having a collective group of people who play golf is a great time. Playing tournaments, traveling to places like Waco and Dallas — it’s fun to play against other colleges.”

Their journey, marked by passion, showcases a dedication to reshaping golf’s role at Rice.

“It is exciting to see how much this club will grow,” Vela said. “Whether it is by being introduced to golf, playing recreationally or competing at a higher level, the opportunities for students are endless.”

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