A Perfect Match: Jada and Terri Fowlkes, And Golf Too

Terri Fowlkes always knew she was going to adopt.

“I always wanted to adopt a child, whether I was married or not, whether I had zero kids or 10 kids of my own,” she said. “Because I knew there were so many kids in the world that needed love. There are so many children who need love, particularly black and brown children.”

And, on September 19, 2007, a child was born that needed Terri’s love. Terri took her home just a week later that lucky baby girl became Jada Fowlkes. In many ways, it was a perfect match.

“People always say (Jada) looks just like me,” Terri said with a laugh. “She actually looks exactly like my dad, which is interesting. God put the right people in the right place, she was supposed to be a part of our family.”

Terri quickly learned that Jada was an athlete, so she enrolled Jada in softball and dance from an early age. But Jada would have to wait until she was eight to find her true passion: golf.

“We always saw golf as like a rich person’s sport and not a lot of brown people play golf from what we saw,” Terri explained. “It just seemed so unattainable because it’s expensive and time consuming.”

Terri and Jada heard about the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Program from a cousin and decided it was at least worth a try. After attending one Girls Golf session, Jada fell in love with the sport. She soon joined the First Tee program so she could play golf year-round. Through First Tee, she attended an LPGA Leadership Academy and has since become an eLeader for the Girls Golf program in Greater Newark.

“(Jada) became very active in golf and she really enjoyed it,” Terri said. “She had to give up some of her other sports because you can only be in so many places at one time on a Saturday. So, she decided that golf was her thing and she’s been playing ever since.”

Golf has given Jada unique opportunities, and both Terri and Jada hope there are many more possibilities to come. Since 2021, Jada has been invited to the Cognizant Founder’s Cup Pro-Am event where she has played with LPGA Tour stars like Lizette Salas. An aspiring journalist, Jada also spent some time with Morgan Pressel in the Golf Channel broadcast booth.

Last year, Jada met Renee Powell – the second African American woman to play on the LPGA Tour and a 2017 PGA of America Hall of Fame inductee – while visiting the Powell family golf course, Clearview Golf Club in Ohio.

“(Renee Powell) inspired me as a young African American golfer,” Jada said. “Her father building his own course is very inspiring, to see that anyone can do anything.”

Terri hopes that golf will pave the way for Jada to go to college. Terri has faced plenty of challenges as a single parent – from facing stiff competition from other couples interested in adopting Jada, to juggling her work schedule and Jada’s golf schedule – and sending Jada to college is the next on the list. 

Jada has also hurdled many obstacles to build confidence in herself. She was often bullied for being adopted and struggled to understand her identity.

“Growing up a lot of people would say ‘that’s not your real mom,’ and that would hurt me,” Jada said. “Seeing my mom now and how much she supports me, even though she didn’t give birth to me, like she is my mom no matter what.”

With Terri’s support, Jada has grown into an amazingly accomplished young woman who continues to impress. Jada has excelled far beyond her achievements as a leader within the Girls Golf program. 

Last year, Jada was a freshman at Columbia High School in Essex County, which didn’t have a golf team. So, with confidence and wit beyond her years, Jada helped found a golf club. Though it was only her and six other boys playing golf every so often, Jada made the most of it

“It was Jada and the boys,” Terri said. “There weren’t any girls who played but she was determined to play. She said it was good because it made her more competitive. The boys were a little stronger, so she built up her strength too.”

Now, Jada is a student at the prestigious Lawrenceville School, a boarding school with its own golf course. She joined the volleyball team in the fall, is in the middle of tryouts for the basketball team. She will try out for golf in the spring. 

Terri Fowlkes always knew she was going to adopt a child. What she didn’t know was how good of a kid she was going to get: a driven athlete and a mature leader. 

“She’s a good kid,” Terri said. “She’s a real blessing to have, one of the best decisions I’ve made. We’ve added a lot of value to each other’s lives. She realizes that she has lived a very different life than she may have. She’s traveled the world. She goes to one of the top schools in the country. So, she’s doing pretty good.”