Current Residence: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Hometown: Spanaway, Wash. / Raleigh, N.C. (birthplace)
Home Course: The Classic Golf Club, Spanaway, Wash.
College: University of Washington
Profession: Professional Golfer
- 2013 Symetra Tour Rookie. Made six cuts in 13 events
- Fired course record 61 (-11) at McDowell Mountain Golf Course (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 2012
- U.S. Women’s Amateur Sectional Medalist, 2012
- First African American Golfer at University of Washington
- Shot Course-Record 66 at Washington National Golf Course in the 2011 NCAA Western Regional Championship
- Course Record 66 (-5) at Washington National Golf Course, 2011 NCAA Western Regional
- T5 at 2008 PGA Junior Championship
- 2006 and 2008 Washington State High School Champion
“Big Break Florida is my test, and I’m going to ace it.”
Sadena Parks is one of the more competitive athletes one will meet. Growing up, she excelled in basketball, track and golf. Golf, however, was not her first love. Basketball was her sport of choice, and her dream growing up was to play in the WNBA.
“I played basketball almost every day, and I continue to play a lot,” said Sadena. “I am a very emotional player on the court, and I thrive on the adrenaline and competitiveness.”
Her father introduced her to golf at age nine as a way to bond with her. Although they did not have a lot of money when Sadenda was growing up, her father made sure they would get out to the golf course as often as they could. Recognizing that Sadenda picked up the game quickly, he enrolled her in the Leisure Hour junior golf program in Portland, Ore., that brings the passion of golf to youth who might not otherwise be able to afford such an expensive pastime. She and her father would later move to Washington State, where she was accepted into the Junior Associate golf program at the Classic Club in Spanaway, Wash. The program provided affordable rounds and range privileges to serious juniors golfers in return for assisting at the golf course. Regular play and practice became affordable for her and it was there she honed her game. She would go on to win the Washington State High School Championship her sophomore and senior years and runner-up her junior year.
It was in her junior year of high school that Sadena made the shift from basketball to golf. She was recruited by several Division I schools for basketball, track and golf. However, her high school coaches told her she should focus on one sport in preparation for college; and golf was the obvious choice. Cognizant of the limitations of her 5’3” statute in basketball and track, she became intrigued with the prospect of being a professional golfer. In the spring of 2007, she committed to a golf scholarship at the University of Washington, becoming the first African American golfer in school history.
“My family always told me that I was a trailblazer, and choosing golf over basketball and track was another way for me to potentially leave my mark,” she said.
Her college career was, in Sadena’s terms, “OK.” While she saw gradual improvement in her game over her her four years at Washington, she also realized something about herself – she had a temper on the golf course that made her scores inconsistent.
“On the basketball court, it is expected for you to show your emotions to excite spectators and motivate your teammates,” said Sadena. “The golf course is completely different. You have to channel your emotions and learn how to control them. I wore my emotions on my sleeve, and my first round scores, more often than not, were not that great. I was always coming from behind and putting extra pressure on myself.”
After graduating in 2012, she moved to Arizona to continue her golf career, but did not turn professional immediately. “I wasn’t ready,” Sadena explained. “I knew I had the talent, but on the mental side I had a long way to go, and I really didn’t know how to fix it.”
After several top-five finishes as an amateur in mini tour events, she decided to turn pro. She didn’t know if it was the right decision, but she knew she needed to face her emotions head on and move forward. She earned Symetra Tour status at the 2012 LPGA Q-School, making it to Stage II. After a respectable T21 finish in her first Symetra Tour event Arizona in 2013, she missed her next two cuts. At the Symetra Classic in Charlotte in May, 2013 her emotions got the best of her.
“I had a terrible first round – typical of me – and emotionally I just felt like I lost control. “My frustrations got the better of me to where I couldn’t focus.
“That night I was panicking,” she continued. “I couldn’t breathe, and I was genuinely scared. It was the stress and pressure that I was putting on myself. I tried everything to calm myself down, but it just wasn’t working.”
The next morning, she took a deep breath on the first tee, and felt a sense of calm that she hadn’t felt in a long time. She then proceeded to shoot a 67, her lowest competitive round as a professional.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how I was able to remain so calm and in control after what I went through the night before,” said Sadena. “All I knew was that I wanted to repeat it, but I didn’t know how. Sometimes you just have to rely on your faith and let God take care of the rest.”
Sadena found her golf scores gradually improving. She began to demonstrate better control of her emotions on the course and during practice. Each step of the way in 2013, she discussed her emotional journey with her father. “My dad studied psychology, so he has been a great support system for me this year. When I told him that about my progress, he couldn’t control his excitement, and neither could I. We knew I was getting closer to achieving the success I am capable of.”
Her confidence blossomed off the course in interacting with people, as well. She says there would have been no way she could have competed on Big Break prior to 2013.
“I know I have the physical ability. Now, I am ready to challenge myself mentally.”
Big Break Florida is Sadena Parks’ ultimate test. And she plans on acing it.