Getting a good game is never a problem. “There are about six or seven tour players who are members out here,” Mina Harigae said of her home club, Superstition Mountain just east of Phoenix. “We have a lot of really good players.”
The views aren’t bad, either, with fire-red sunsets against rocky faces of the mountain range and desert vegetation waving its muted colors and sturdy disposition in a hot and steady wind. “I love it out here,” Harigae said of the area where she lives. But breathtaking views and an appreciation for the grandeur of the world around her have always been a part of Mina’s life. She grew up in Monterey, the coastal town midway between California’s borders with Oregon and Mexico, and a place John Steinbeck described as “the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.” Seeing the Pacific waves against the rocky shores of the Monterey peninsula brings man closer to the abstracts of existence on earth: things like beauty, poetry, peace and God. It was in this setting that Mina first picked up a golf club at the Bayonet and Black Horse Club.
“I went to a junior clinic that was part of an after-school program there,” she said. It was put on the Salvation Army and it allowed kids like Mina to interact with their peers in a beautiful spot where she stayed until sunset because her parents were working.
There are worse spots to play with other kids. Located on the site of what was once Ford Ord, the main garrison for the army’s 7th Infantry Division, the 36-hole facility has long been overlooked because of its neighbors, Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. But the entire area, Seaside, where Bayonet and Black Horse sit, Monterey, Carmel and Pebble Beach puts life into perspective for all who experience its scenic majesty, a fact not lost on Mina, who is now 31 and still looking for her first LPGA Tour victory after a stellar amateur and Symetra Tour career.
“Being able to play golf and do this for a living is something that I never take for granted,” she said. “There are all kinds of ups and downs in golf, like with everything else in life, but you’re playing golf. That puts things in the right perspective, for sure.”
Mina went to the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach where her high school golf team played its home matches on Spyglass Hill. She won the California Women’s Amateur Championship at age 12 and went on to win the title a total of four times. Then, at 17, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and committed to Duke, one of the preeminent women’s golf schools in the country. Throughout that time, her teacher was the legendary pro Jim Langley from Cypress Point.
It’s easy for a young person to take such extraordinary opportunities for granted, to lack some level of gratitude for the gifts bestowed upon you by your address and the recreational facilities at your disposal. But Mina always knew that she was blessed. She learned that from her parents.
“My mom came to America when she was 12,” Mina said. “My dad came over from Japan when he was in his 20s to go to culinary school. They’ve had a Japanese restaurant in Monterey (called Takara, one of the most popular sushi spots on the Peninsula) for 31 years in the same location and they’re working every day. They’ve been able to raise a family because of the hard work and dedication that they put into that business.
“That was their American dream and they realized it. They’re still realizing it every day. And because of them, I was able to pursue my American dream of playing professional golf. As a young person, you don’t know how much junior golf costs. You have no idea. Now, I realize what a sacrifice it was for my family for me to play the events I played and do the things I was able to do in the game.”
She also has a bond to her family background and the nature of their American immigrant story.
“I’m so proud of my Japanese heritage and culture,” Mina said. “At the same time, growing up in California and now living in Arizona, I am about as American as you can get. That’s one of the greatest things about being Asian American. I’ve got the best of two worlds. I appreciate it every day. And I don’t ever forget it.”