She has all the goods to become a super star. Ginger Howard is young, just 19 years old; she’s beautiful, and talented…in a sport that is just hard. When she was 17 years old, she became youngest African American to turn professional as a golfer and she won her debut tournament. She just finished her 2nd season as a pro on the Symetra Tour, which the qualifying tour that sends its top 10 money winners to the LPGA every year. In May 2013 the tour came to Charlotte, NC and we caught up with Ginger after a tough first round.
She seemed disappointed in her performance and said she knew that she “was better than that.” So we followed her to the putting green while she tapped in a few balls before coming off the green and over to her father and myself. From that point on, Ginger seemed refocused and transformed into a playful teenager as she chatted and giggled with her other golfer friends.
“My favorite golfers are Tiger Woods, and Rickie Fowler.”
Ginger also talked about her downtime activities like reading, singing and writing poems; just some of the things she uses to adjust to life as a professional athlete.
Ginger started playing golf when she was six years old.
“It was because of my dad. He was practicing and I was with my sister who was four at the time; and we were just sitting there and watching.” After seeing how well the girls played recreationally, their father, Robert Howard, entered the girls into a tournament and discovered that they had real talent. Ginger says that she knew she was good after playing in that first tournament.
Ginger continued to play …and win more tournaments, and the family came to a crossroads. They lived in Maryland, where Robert says “its cold seven to eight months out of the year.” He said he knew that if his daughters were going to advance to another level, they had to move to Florida. “That’s where all the tournaments were anyway.” Robert had a high paying corporate job that created a very comfortable life for his family of six. He said he “gave it up” and the family moved for Bradenton, Florida. And that made all the difference. Ginger rose to be one of the top 5 junior golfers in the nation, and before she graduated high school she had offers from Duke and the University of Florida, “ and those were my top two schools that I wanted to go to.”
Instead of college, though, Ginger turned to her parents and told them that she decided to turn professional.
“I thought, ‘I feel pretty good right now and I feel like I’m shooting pretty good scores and so why not,’ and I just decided to make the jump. I was pretty confident in myself and I decided to make the decision.”
Her father, Robert, said “Ginger has that drive. That drive for excellence and that drive to go to the next level,” and didn’t fight her decision.
But when she turned pro, Ginger Howard found herself making history as the youngest African American professional golfer. That’s right. Not even Tiger Woods started his professional career as young as Ginger Howard.
“I was thinking like ‘wow, I guess I did make history.’ And I thought it was really pretty cool.”
But since turning pro, she says the biggest change in her life has been the money. That’s the spending of money. Robert says that most people assume that once you are a professional athlete you are rolling in the dough. The truth is that it takes over 85-thousand dollars a year to support Ginger’s career, and that’s not including caddie fees. So on many tournaments, Ginger…is her own caddie.
Ginger currently has a clothing and hotel sponsor, and still needs much more. Interested supporters can visit her website www.GingerHoward.com for more information. The pressure to win looms over the family. The Symetra tour ended at the end of September and Ginger’s winnings for the year were $13,608. And the financial side of this dream is only one obstacle.
Another big challenge is the travel involved with the tour schedule. Ginger said she could be on the road three to four weeks at a time. She is the eldest of four children. Aside from her 17 year old sister, Robbi, she has two younger brothers. Right now they have a system of Robert traveling with Ginger and taking his four year old son along with them. Ginger’s mother has the other son and travels with Robbi, who also travels for Junior PGA tournaments. And there is already buzz that when Robbi joins Ginger as a professional: fans hope they could be the Venus and Serena Williams of golf. Both Ginger and her father are flattered by the comparison, but also know that she must first focus and find success from where she is now.
So Ginger says that “training right now it’s pretty crucial. And I think it’s more important than ever.” When not in a tourney, Ginger is still on a course somewhere six to seven days a week. Robert says “When she stays really poised, when she stays really focused, a lot of good things happen.” He also says that all the experts that Ginger has worked with say she is exceptionally talented. So now it’s the story that we’ve heard and seen before in sports: Can Ginger Howard become great? Her fans, and more so, her family hopes so. For this 19 year-old, second year pro-golfer, she says this sport which is now her job is still fun. She is driven and despite the sacrifices of her family, confident (not panicked) that her talent and faith in God will take her to the next level.
To follow and support Ginger Howard’s journey, visit www.gingerthoward.com