Long drive: For Spider sisters golf is a way of life

September 27, 2022

ALUMNI

Even on a Zoom call five states apart, Sara and Elsa Diaz finish each other’s sentences.

“Go ahead sis,” the two repeated back and forth in sharing how they came to the University of Richmond from a childhood where they exclusively spoke Spanish.

The two Spiders were born in California and Texas, but grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Their family moved to San Antonio, Texas, after about a decade living in Mexico, and the sisters, who did not speak English, enrolled in the local public school.

“I just remember being so nervous,” said Elsa, a 2018 graduate. “And at the time, I didn't recognize what the feeling was, and now that I'm older, I realize how stressed out I was.”

“It was a complete culture shock,” said Sara, who graduated in 2016. Sara is the oldest sibling, the two have a brother in between, and she was entering middle school when their family relocated. “I remember in a social studies class, we were taking notes, and my pencil broke. I raised my hand and made the motion to go to the pencil sharpener, because I didn’t know how to make a single phrase in English.”

She was determined to learn the language and spent countless hours studying and attending tutoring sessions. By the end of the year, Sara had straight As, and went on to earn the superintendent award when she graduated from middle school.

The sisters, though, said they really started to feel at home in the U.S. when they joined a local golf program called First Tee, which helps build self-esteem, life skills, and character for children and young adults through golf.

“We've always said that they were the first to welcome us with open arms,” Elsa said, “and we felt like we could be ourselves.”

Their family attended the program every weekend. Soon the sisters fell in love with the sport and began competing in tournaments.

Jump ahead a few years later, and they both earned scholarships to attend the University of Richmond and play for the women’s golf team in 2015, Elsa as a first year, and Sara as a master’s student.

“It was the absolute best,” Sara said. “We just did everything together at UR. I had classes in the evening, she had classes in the morning, but we would go to workouts together. We would go eat breakfast together. We would play together.”

Elsa helped guide the team to three titles during her senior year, and she tied the record for the lowest score ever achieved by a Spider during the Boston College Intercollegiate tournament.

“I had confidence because my sister was there,” Elsa said. “That was a great experience for me, because I realized that the drive I have comes from my family. I feel like they're holding my hand through everything I do, which is a big part of my career.”

That bond has only gotten stronger with time. Elsa is now a professional golfer who competes all over the country, and her big sister is her manager.

“As she was graduating, I was thinking ‘How do we start creating a brand for Elsa? Who can we talk to?’” said Sara, who was recently named vice president of recruiting for a golf club hospitality company.

Through the Richmond alumni network, Sara was able to throw a fundraising party for her sister and help her earn a spot to play for the LPGA Kingsmill PureSilk Championship in Williamsburg. She has also helped her secure sponsorships.

Elsa continues to compete in LPGA qualifiers, and her sister knows that as a team, they can go far.

 “I think there is a benefit of doing something as a family,” Sara said. “No one is going to fight for her like I am. There's nothing like a sister.”