TEMPLE, Texas — When Jalyah Collins takes the course at the Regional Golf Tournament later this week, she will be doing more than fighting for a spot at the state tournament. She will be making history.
Temple ISD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott confirmed on Twitter, Collins is the first African-American girl from Temple from the district to compete in the regional tournament.
"It's really awesome to have that title," Collins said. "But I feel like the people who come behind me will really see the significance."
Her route to the tournament was anything but conventional. Collins did not pick up a golf club until her Sophomore year of high school. Her parents have never played.
"I had no experience playing golf," Collins said. "I don't even know if I'd played putt-putt before then. I just decided I wanted to play one day."
She says she fondly remembers her first day on the course.
"The first day is tough, because you miss the ball a lot as a beginner. But my coach persisted and helped me to figure it all out. It's all up to the player to practice and improve," Collins said.
When she started, her coach did not think she would reach these heights, simply due to her lack of experience.
"Anybody that plays or has played golf knows how hard this game is," Temple Varsity Golf Coach Alan Roark said. "Picking the game up when you're a sophomore in high school and making it to regionals two years later is really and accomplishment."
Collins attributes her success to hours spent on the course, driving range and putting green. She plays most days after school.
"There are no days off," she said. I've got to come out here even if its hot, cold, windy whatever the weather. I've got to practice and try to improve every day."
Over the last few weeks, Roark has encouraged her to practice with the boys' team in the hopes it will elevate her play even further.
"I've been playing with the boys to try to catch up with them and try to hit it as far as they can. So, right now my driver is the best part of my game," Collins said.
The regional tournament will take place April 21-22 at Bear Ridge Golf Club in Waco.