The Choice To Be Fearless

I grew up in a family of athletes. Soccer, tennis, swimming, running, golf: we were always doing something. We used to live on a golf course, and my mom would tell my two older brothers and me, ‘Okay, go play. Go do something.’ Golf was one of the things that we did. For the longest time, I just enjoyed going with them, watching them hit; watching them play. But I never really wanted to hit myself. Then, one day, the head pro said, ‘Hey, how about you give it a go. You’ve been here watching for a while. Maybe you’ll like it.’ Of course, he was right. I was the one who wanted to go back to take lessons and play more. I fell in love with the game.

Growing up with athletes drives you from an early age. But when you have two older brothers who are into sports, you have to be tough. My siblings made me strong and competitive. They didn’t hold back. I remember playing soccer with them and having a ball kicked into my face. I wiped away my tears and kept playing. When my little brother came aboard, it was more of the same. He followed us as I had followed our older brothers who went on to play professional soccer. We all pushed each other.

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, Maria Fassi of Mexico , Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, Lindsey Vonn of USA, and Brooke Henderson of Canada pose for a picture at the Evian Championship prize for a better tomorrow by former Ski champion Lindsey Vonn of USA and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden after day 3 of the Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club on July 27, 2019 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
I wanted to be professional golfer because of Lorena Ochoa. Seeing how much she loved the game and seeing the pride the people of Mexico took in having her represent them in the world stage had a huge impact on me. I wanted to be like Lorena. As I got to know her and saw what an amazing person she is, I realized that Lorena might be the easiest role model in the world to have. There aren’t many things you can say about her that are not glowing.

Annika Sorenstam has also been an incredibly important part of my life in golf. Winning the ANNIKA Award twice as the top college golfer when I was at the University of Arkansas and also winning her college tournament, the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, gave me the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with Annika and get some wonderful counsel as I was preparing to transition to the LPGA Tour. I remember she told me that the friendships I made on Tour would be different than what I’d experienced in college. She said, “It’s a job, now. You’re playing for money. Don’t let the loneliness surprise you.” And she was absolutely right.

I didn’t break out on Tour right away. In fact, after a successful amateur and collegiate career, I struggled in the professional ranks. So, I called Lorena and also got on the phone with her coach Rafael Alacon. I talked about my frustrations and doubts. Both of them came back with the same advice: This is part of the process. They told me that I would be OK. Lorena said, “Forget about what you did as an amateur. You need to have a blank slate here on Tour. You have to write your new story. We all know how good you can be. We all know how good you were. But that’s irrelevant now. You have to come out here and play golf.”

I took that advice to heart. I moved back to Northwest Arkansas, an environment where I know the people, where I can work on my game and where I feel as though I can be the best version of myself. I also began the Maria Fassi Foundation to help children of all abilities to come together and support each other through golf.

Playing the LPGA Tour hasn’t gotten easier. The competition is as fierce as ever and the fields week-in and week-out are deeper than at any time in the game’s history. But I have gotten comfortable in this environment. As Annika predicted, my relationships are different as well. But they are also meaningful and impactful. I love my friends on Tour. I have veterans I go to for advice, players like Stacy Lewis who has been a huge help in my development as a professional.

I also have a reminder of what it means to be an athlete, a friend, and a role model for others. My sophomore year at Arkansas was rough. I had golf troubles, roommate problems, school stuff – the growing pains every college student goes through. Like many young adults, I was scared about what could happen, so I wasn’t seizing opportunities. I was saying things like, ‘What if I fail?’ or ‘What if I let my family down?’ I was focusing on the what-ifs and not on the things that were right in front of me.

During that time, I began reading a lot of books. A theme emerged in all of them, one that I remembered from my days growing up with my brothers in Mexico. Fear and happiness are incompatible. Fear is crippling. It is a compounding weight that gets heavier with age. It affects every part of your life. I knew this from my time as a child. When I would go to the soccer fields with my brothers, they looked like giants. I knew that there was a chance I could be hurt or embarrassed. When I jumped into the swimming pool for a race, I knew that I might finish last; that I might disappoint my coaches and my parents. But pushing through those fears felt good. Somehow, as my teens slipped away and I entered the scary world of my 20s, I forgot that feeling. I had let fear seep into my daily life. And it was beating me down.

So, I got a tattoo on my foot, one of the most sensitive places on your body where a tattoo needle seemingly hits every nerve. Thankfully, it wasn’t that big. Just one word:


You wake up every day with a choice. You can live in fear of everything around you. Or you can push through those feelings and seize your destiny. I choose to be fearless. It is a mantra that I live by every day. And it is a message I hope to share with the young people I touch, through my career on the LPGA Tour and through my foundation, for the rest of my life.

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