Sports Illustrated and Strengthen Onyx highlight the diverse journeys of black women in sport – from veteran athletes to rising stars, coaches, executives and more – in the series, She-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
Laura Diaz took her first golf lesson on her 10th birthday and immediately fell in love with the game. “I remember my brother and I used to tell my dad to take us to the place with the shoes that click, click. We started going with him just to have fun, drive the car, and then we started taking lessons,” she says. Now working as the foundation’s senior director of operations and of LPGA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Diaz is dedicated to making the game she loves accessible to as many women and girls as possible.
It didn’t take long for her parents to realize she had a natural affinity for the sport and signed her up for lessons with LPGA Tour veteran Martha Faulconer. After developing his skills under Faulconer, Diaz began playing in tournaments and representing his native Puerto Rico on the national team at just 13 years old.
Diaz continued to play on the national team throughout high school and dabbled in other sports like basketball and volleyball. “I’m 5’11”. Everyone in my family thought I was going to be a volleyball prodigy, but once I started playing golf, I really fell in love with it,” she says. At 18, Diaz earned an athletic scholarship to play on the East Tennessee State golf team.While many would find the transition of starting over in a new place unsettling, she quickly found solace in the camaraderie among fellow international students and her teammates, which was a new and refreshing experience for Diaz. “In Puerto Rico, not many women played,” Diaz explains, but college was different for her. “We were all roommates with each other; we had automatic friends.
In 2007, after earning her undergraduate degree in Public Relations and Mass Communications from East Tennessee — a slight deviation from her original plan to become a doctor like her father and grandfather — Diaz returned to Puerto Rico and began his career with the Puerto Rico Golf Association. . She went on to study at the University of Georgia, earning a master’s degree in sports management. Having maintained a relationship with her former PRGA colleagues and associates and since her touring days, Diaz landed a dream internship at the PGA Tour, where she was placed in the First Tee headquarters. During his eight-year tenure at First Tee, Diaz served as an Events Manager, managing national programs and events focusing on youth leadership, mentorship and character building.
In 2019, Diaz joined the LPGA as Director of Foundation Operations, overseeing all programs and services supporting the LPGA Foundation. In this role, the knowledge she has gained over her nearly 14 years in events and operations, learning the nuances of the industry, is invaluable in leading her team to success. “I don’t force my team to do anything that I haven’t done before,” Diaz says. I have been in gravel terrain with a small ramrod from 6 am to 2 pm. Literally, I did it all.
In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, the LPGA, like many other companies and organizations, issued a statement condemning police-sanctioned violence, reiterating company values and supporting employees. Curious, Diaz reached out to her marketing manager to find out how the statement came about. After a productive and enlightening exchange, she partnered with the Chief Marketing Officer to best determine how the LPGA can continue to live up to its values and embark on a more inclusive journey. Always curious and ready to raise her hand when things need to be done, it’s no surprise that Diaz was asked for her new role as the foundation’s and DEI’s senior director of operations. “I really hope to align more closely with our global human resources department and our leadership team to really analyze the results of our existing programs, provide solutions and continue to advise the LPGA on all things diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says.
Diaz looks forward to what the future will bring and create something new with the blank slate given to him. For her, it’s about diversifying the game and the management teams, bringing in new perspectives and making things happen. Although her days of being the only player on her course in Puerto Rico are over, providing access and removing barriers to playing and watching golf are still at the forefront of her mind.
Using the tools of the LPGA, she hopes to see incremental changes over the next decade, including uplifting more women of color internally and on tour, expanding the supplier diversity chain, and building a player pipeline. community. “I would really like to partner more with organizations and communities and really get people to come and see our amazing athletes because that’s something that I think a lot of people miss,” Diaz said. “I want more young Hispanic, Black and Asian women to experience it because if you can see it, you can be it.”
Danielle Bryant contributes to Strengthen Onyxa diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sport for black women and girls.