Natural Born Leader: Lexi Carr is Girls Golf alumnus with wonderful background

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. The LPGA showcases these stories to celebrate the miracle of adoption.

Donning the t-shirt changes everything. The girls at the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf clinic just a few paces from the first tee at Tiburon Golf Club during the CME Group Tour Championship behaved as you might expect. Some were bashful and awkward. Others bounced on their toes with excitement. Still others huddled around the LPGA Professionals on site who ran the event. They were, to generalize, girls being girls. But the minute a few of the older ones put on their eLeader tees, the dynamic transformed. They became, as the screened words on thin white cotton said, leaders.

Despite what you might think, the goal of LPGA*USGA Girls Golf is not to create golfers. It’s a leadership academy, an outdoor group seminar that uses the sport to build confidence and character; to hone a young girl’s focus and teach her about decision making and action-reaction consequences. Some of the Girls Golf participants become good players. But the scorecard is a byproduct. The program is about developing strong women.

One of those kids, Lexi Carr, couldn’t wait to shake hands with all the new people on the Tiburon range that last week of the LPGA Tour season. No matter the age of the stranger, Lexi looked them in the eyes and introduced herself with an engaging smile – impressive for a 12-year-old.

Then you hear her story. And how well she plays golf tumbles even further down the priority list.

“We got Lexi right at birth,” her mother Nicole Carr said. “I had struggled with infertility issues and my husband’s son had passed away when he was young, so when we got married, I thought my dreams were shattered and I would never be a parent. That’s when my husband (Darren) said, ‘Let’s adopt a little girl.’”

That was in 2008. Nicole had lived on both coasts. She had been in healthcare most of her adult life, as a nurse, as a representative for Metronics and as a lobbyist in Sacramento, Calif. Darren had always been in automotive engineering and repair. Together they had done all the things adults did in their 20s and 30s, except raise a family.

“We were going to leave that in God’s hands,” Nicole said. “I met someone with Catholic Charities who said, ‘I don’t want to get your hopes up, but we have a lady who is pregnant, 42 years old, homeless, and this is her fourth pregnancy. She doesn’t know who the father is, and she doesn’t want a child. But she wants an older couple to adopt, and she wants someone who is in the medical profession, in case something is wrong with the baby. Her other three are special needs.’

“I had been a nurse my whole career. And we were older, 39 and 42. She kept in touch with me, but time went on and I eventually had to release it all and not worry about it. This child, if she came to us, would continue to grow in my heart. In the end, if she’s there, she’s there.”

Adoptions take longer than most people realize. Two years is typical, sometimes longer. In the Carr’s case, the call came on January 18, 2010. Nicole had just come home after a long shift and put her phone away while she decompressed. At 4:45 that afternoon, she picked the phone back up and saw an exorbitant number of missed calls, all from her contact at Catholic Charities.

“The birth lady was in labor and wanted us there because she wanted us to be Lexi’s parents,” Nicole said. “I was in tears, called my husband and my mom. We rushed to the hospital. They took us back to a room and they put the newborn on me.

“I really believe God created her for us. It was the most beautiful thing ever. It just showed me that God works in his ways and in his time.”

Nothing more is known about Lexi’s biological relatives. Her birth mother has since passed away. The average life expectancy for a homeless woman in America is 43. Her biological half-siblings are lost to the system.

But the family unit is strong and blessed.

“To be a mother, you don’t have to be pregnant and give birth,” Nicole said. “It’s been the most rewarding and wonderful thing. And I’m happy that it happened when I was older. I had already lived in California. I had been a lobbyist. I’d been to nursing school and worked as a pediatric nurse. So I’d had a lot of things in my life that let me know that what was important to me was being there for my family and raising Lexi.

“Our priorities changed. Darren and I had had a lot of date nights. Now we have family nights. She’s almost 13 now, so we only have her six more years before she starts her own life. We spend time with Lexi now. She is our priority.”

Part of that family bonding comes through golf. Darren plays. Nicole’s brother-in-law is a PGA member in California and her mother played golf at Haggin Oaks outside Sacramento before moving east. The Carrs had long since moved to northeast Florida where they owned an auto repair shop when Nicole’s brother gave Lexi a plastic club for her fourth birthday. Like a lot of young girls, Lexi followed Dad to the course.

“She loved it,” Nicole said. “We started lessons and found out that there was a LPGA*USGA Girls Golf chapter in Port Orange. She’s been hooked ever since. She has been going to Girls Golf every year and gone to different camps every year. When the PGA Jr. League came to Crane Lakes (Golf and Country Club), she got into it.”

The family goes to as many LPGA Tour events as possible, including the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando. That is where one Lexi met another.

“When our Lexi got to speak to Lexi Thompson, she asked her how she put bad shots and bad rounds behind her and didn’t let being down carry forward,” Nicole said. “It was wonderful hearing the response. Lexi (Thompson) told her that she had to keep working on her game, keep practicing, and know that hard work would eventually pay off.

“It’s so great to see her having those kinds of conversations. She’s such a fabulous human being. I can’t believe she’s mine. She’s open and can converse with anyone."

If you see that as a golf story, you’re missing the point. That is leadership. That is mentorship. That is what the LPGA, through all its many outlets, is all about.