DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It was a moment she’d been working toward her entire life. When that final putt dropped at the Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic, Isabella Fierro couldn’t believe that she had finally done it, finally joined the ranks of so many great Mexican players before her, finally achieved her lifelong dream of winning a professional golf event.
“Lorena Ochoa is definitely my role model and she set up the bar pretty high for Mexican golfers,” said the 22-year-old. “Last week, I just felt so comfortable. I've been the last couple of weeks feeling very comfortable with my game. I've been having so much fun and not really worrying about the future or whatever is gonna happen but being more in the present so that finally paid off.”
It was a hard-fought battle that saw her eke out a two-shot margin of victory over Laura Wearn who double-bogeyed the last hole, and it was a moment that will prove pivotal come Sunday at the Epson Tour Championship. While capturing her first professional win was certainly important for the up-and-comer, it more importantly vaulted Fierro from 18th to 8th in the Epson Tour’s Race for the Card, two spots inside the top 10 that would give her an LPGA Tour card for the 2024 season.
But plenty can happen during Epson Tour Championship week. And with players currently ranked fourth through 30th in the Race for the Card all having a shot at earning LPGA Tour Membership, Fierro knows she will have to do exactly what she did last week in Alabama to secure one of those coveted cards, especially with all the stress that comes with sitting on that top-10 bubble.
“Before that win, I knew my game was very solid and I had a lot of confidence in the things I've been doing. I was really feeling very calm,” said Fierro. “With golf, sometimes results don't come as fast as we would want them to but if you are patient, it pays off. It would mean the world for me to hold that LPGA Tour card on Sunday, but I think what I'm going to be focusing on is making birdies, making putts and if they don't drop, be patient and enjoying every single day.
“The reality is I don't know what's going to happen next year or tomorrow so I'm just trying to enjoy as much as possible. I love playing in Florida. I love Florida courses.”
Fierro hails from Ciudad del Carmen in southeast Mexico, a tropical city that sits near the ocean, much like this week’s venue in Daytona Beach, Fla. As did many of her counterparts, Fierro took up golf because it was something her dad played, starting to swing a club at four years old and competing around the world as her game progressed as a junior.
She wound up moving to the United States to play collegiate golf at Oklahoma State University, earning WGCA Honorable Mention All-American honors in both her freshman and sophomore seasons. She entered the transfer portal following her second year as an OSU Cowgirl, and after being unable to roll over her academic credits to Ole Miss who accepted her as a transfer, Fierro decided to turn professional in 2022. She was teammates with LPGA Tour winner and European Solheim Cup team member Maja Stark during her two years in Stillwater, Okla., and the Epson Tour rookie has been paying close attention to what her friend has been doing as a pro, hoping to pick up a few things that might help her find her way to the Tour as well.
“With Maja, she's just such a transparent person and so bold that I can ask her about anything, and she will be so honest and so transparent,” said Fierro of the Swede. “It's awesome what she's doing. She also left Oklahoma State to follow her dreams. I mean, she’s already played a Solheim Cup. I wouldn't be expecting any less of Maja. She's a great person and a great golfer. I’m happy for her.”
As she has for so many other young Mexican players, Lorena Ochoa has been a mentor to Fierro for much of her young career. The Hall of Famer tends to take any Mexican player with dreams of competing on the LPGA Tour under her wing and has been a source of endless inspiration for the 22-year-old, celebrating her great moments and picking her up during the bad times, something that has been critical to Fierro’s success thus far.
“She’s been there for me every single step of the way,” Fierro said of the 27-time LPGA Tour winner. “She was there when I shot 62 and when I shot 79. I wanted to cry, and I wanted to leave golf, but she was she has been there every single step of the way. I am so grateful that she's there, not just with me but with every Mexican player.
“Whenever I say she set up the bar very high for us, it's not just as an athlete and a golfer but as a female. She has a family. She loves her kids. She has a charity. She helps Mexican players, future generations that are growing and coming. She checks off every box on the list that at least every Mexican golfer is wanting to become eventually.”
Her Mexican counterparts and role models on the LPGA Tour have also taken notice of Fierro. Gaby Lopez and Maria Fassi always proudly represent their country when competing week in and week out on the world’s biggest stage, and the latter has really been impressed with Fierro and her game, not to mention how she handles herself off the golf course.
“We grew up playing a lot of golf together, representing Mexico and junior events, amateur events. (Isabella is) an unbelievable player,” said Fassi of Fierro. “She's extremely talented. She's fierce. She's not gonna shy down if the lights show up on her. She's very fiery. I see a lot of me in her in a way, very emotional. But she just loves what she does. She is extremely proud to represent Mexico, represent her family herself, and I think she does a great job of it.”
When it comes to her Mexican heritage, Fierro is impressed with how far her home country has come in terms of representation in professional golf. There used to only be one or two players from Mexico competing on the LPGA Tour every decade or so and Mexican women are regularly teeing it up on both the LPGA and Epson Tours, something that was only a dream for women’s golf pioneers like Nancy Lopez and Ochoa who paved the way for what was to come.
Fierro knows that the mantle is now hers to carry, and she plans to work as hard as possible to maintain her position in the Race for the Card this week at the Epson Tour Championship, hoping to finally realize another lifelong dream of playing on the LPGA Tour.
She also hopes that her story will inspire the next little Isabella who takes an interest in the game of golf and that she will motivate the next generation of young Mexican talent to chase their dreams as so many others have done for her.
“I came up from a little island in the southeast of Mexico. I grew up playing a course that had nine holes and whenever people asked me what kind of grass I was like, we had all kinds of grass, because we didn't have the money to have a good golf course. I think I learned how to play in a humble way just by embracing my roots. I always knew in my dreams and in my heart that I wanted to be the best player in the world.
“I want to give a clear view to future generations of Mexican golfers and athletes in general that any dream can come true if you really want it and if you really fight for things. You’re the only one who's able to achieve your dreams. If you really want to win, nobody can stop you.”