The road traveled by Lizette Salas has been long with many twists and turns, some of it covered in her father’s red pickup truck, which at times served as sleeping quarters between stops on the Epson Tour. The journey began in Azusa, Calif., and has taken Salas around the world. Now, she is a face of the LPGA, an example of its inclusive nature.
That the daughter of two immigrants from Mexico became a four-time All American at the University of Southern California, a three-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup team and a key part of the LPGA’s latest marketing campaign is a true example of the Drive On spirit of the world’s oldest and most successful organization for women in professional sports.
Lizette is proof of what can happen when aspiration and opportunity collide. And the Kingsmill Resort, where this week’s Pure Silk Championship is played, is the scene of Salas’s greatest triumph in golf when she picked up her first LPGA victory five years ago, winning by four strokes over Lexi Thompson, Yani Tseng and Sarah Jane Smith.
Lizette’s story is part of the Drive On campaign launched in March at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup with a 45-second video entitled, “This is for Every Girl,” featuring Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, Brooke Henderson of Canada, So Yeon Ryu of Korea and Mo Martin and Salas from the United States. In the video, the five vow to “crush it” for all those girls who’ve been told they can’t succeed for whatever reason.
And in April, at Wilshire Country Club during the HUGEL-Air Primia Championship, a second video was released, this one focusing on Salas and her inspiring journey.
“My story began before I was even born,” Salas said. “My parents didn’t come to this country with very much and they worked so hard to give me every opportunity they could. This was not a world where a Mexican, especially a Latina, was supposed to be.”
Ramon and Martha Salas raised Lizette in Azusa, near Los Angeles. Ramon is a mechanic at a public golf course and when Lizette was 7 he bartered his skills in exchange for lessons and playing privileges for her. She quickly made the most of the opportunity.
After playing on the local boys high school golf team because the girls didn’t have one, Lizette received a scholarship to the USC, where she became the only four-time All-American in the school’s history in any sport – male or female.
Graduating in 2011 with a degree in Sociology, Lizette joined the Epson Tour, traveling to tournaments with her father-caddie in Ramon’s truck, where they sometimes slept at rest areas to save money on motel rooms.
“We spent a lot of time together in that truck,” Ramon said. “That was the path I always wanted to be on,” Lizette added. “I have lots of good memories.” The sacrifices were part of the adventure, part of the price paid for success.
Salas made it to the LPGA in 2012, won at Kingsmill in the 2014 and has represented the United States in the Solheim Cup in 2013, ’15 and ’17. When she is not at LPGA events, Salas teaches a junior golf clinic at Azusa Greens, the public course where she learned the game.
“This is so special for us,” Martha Salas said when the newest Drive On video was released. “You don’t now how much it means for two Mexican immigrant to watch their daughter play for the United States in the Solheim Cup and now to have her be part of something like this. We are so proud.”
The ”This is for Every Girl” ad campaign has been a huge success, totaling more than 115 million impressions on Twitter. “Our expectations were very high, and frankly the results exceeded our expectations,” said Roberta Bowman, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the LPGA.
“We had interest well beyond the golf community, well beyond sports, and obviously well beyond women and girls as well, which is exactly what our goal was,” Bowman said.
The new spot has stills and video from Lizette's life, including her college graduation where she was asked by Athletic Director Pat Hayden to tell her story. That story now exists, in part, in this new ad campaign.
“Where I came from, people don’t expect much from a person, especially a young Latina,” Lizette says in the video. “There were countless times that I was told I wasn’t going to make it or that I would get my hopes up because, according to them, Mexicans didn’t play golf. But I have just one thing to say to them: They do now.”
When the LPGA was launched in 1950, women had few opportunities in any profession, sports included. Those 13 Founders made something out of nothing that has not only survived but thrived.
And now the women who followed the Founders are passing their opportunity onto the next generation. Lizette is one of the LPGA’s truly inspiring stories. She is a woman who made it in a world where no one looked like her. Now, she wants to give others that same opportunity.