Mariah Stackhouse brings optimism and talent to a game demanding patience and self discipline
Mariah Stackhouse was just six years old when she had a golfer’s epiphany. Call it an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple and striking.
“During the summer, our family would spend two weeks with one grandma and two weeks with the other grandparents,” said Stackhouse, now 26, and the seventh Black female member of the LPGA Tour. “I wasn’t playing any golf while we were traveling.
“We returned home to Atlanta, and the first day back my dad and I were on the practice range at Browns Mill Golf Course. I had a 5-iron and was consistently hitting these perfect baby draws. My dad and I looked at each other and had a collective wow!”
“I can still see myself on that range,” said Stackhouse. “I remember being incredibly psyched by that moment and I know my dad was, too.”
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, she was introduced to golf by her father, Ken, a former partner in an architectural firm, who cut down clubs for her to use at age 2. Her mother, Sharon, is a hospital administrator. Stackhouse competed in her first tournament at age six, tying for first.
In 2011, at age 17, Stackhouse became the youngest Black female to earn a berth in the U.S. Women’s Open field. Three years later, she was the first Black woman to compete on the Curtis Cup team, which the U.S. won that year.
She was a four-year All-American at Stanford University, setting an NCAA scoring record as a freshman when she posted a 61 in the Peg Barnard Invitational Tournament. In 2015, she finished sixth in the individual competition before staging a three-hole match-play rally to defeat Baylor University’s Hayley Davis in 19 holes and give the Cardinal its first NCAA women’s golf championship.
One year later, Stackhouse earned a berth on the LPGA Tour, tying for 21st in the 2016 LPGA Qualifying Tournament. She competed in her first LPGA event in June 2016 at the Portland Classic, 49 years after PGA Hall of Famer Renee Powell, one of Stackhouse’s role models, became the second Black woman to earn an LPGA Tour card.
“My parents did a lot to inform me about the history of Black professional golf and high-level amateur golfers as well,” said Stackhouse. “I was familiar with Renee’s story growing up and the stories she shared traveling on the road.
“The mental toughness she had and the fight off the course chasing that dream of a professional golfer, it’s incredibly inspiring to learn and to respect.”
Stackhouse spent time studying “the heroes within the game that have come before me.”
“I think about what I can do to follow in those footsteps and continue to grow it,” she said. “When I look at the overt racism that they had to face, I am fortunate to be able to grow the game in a much healthier place than where we were forty or fifty years ago.”
“Mariah is quite impressive not only as a golfer but even more so as a very confident young lady,” said Powell, who turned professional in 1967, at age 21. “I watched her as a college student and admired how she held her composure under pressure and her ability to focus and treat the course as a business.”
“Mariah is blessed with talent and I feel will definitely win on the LPGA Tour in the not too distant future.”
In her fifth season on the LPGA Tour, Stackhouse is fully cognizant that playing professional golf is a tenuous occupation. Stackhouse has five top-10 finishes, including a career-best share of fifth in the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“It’s an individual sport and everything is on you,” said Stackhouse. “I acknowledge what needs to be worked on in my game. I believe in this journey and I’m going to figure it out. I’ve had events where I have the caliber to be competitive week in and week out. My focus is to be there consistently.”
Both Powell and Stackhouse benefited from fathers who loved golf and were careful about their daughters’ respective introductions to the game.
At age 10, Stackhouse began working with Chan Reeves, PGA Director of Instruction at The Atlanta Athletic Club. They were together for 16 years.
Last summer, Stackhouse made a coaching change and is now working with Scott Hamilton, PGA Director of Golf at Cartersville (Georgia) Country Club. “I was just trying to shake things up,” said Stackhouse. “Both coaches have been tremendous for me.”
As an ambassador for KPMG, title sponsor of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Stackhouse has been intricately involved with promoting the Championship as well as the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit; she sits on the summit’s Advisory Council, serving alongside some of the most powerful businesswomen in the country.
“The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is incredibly unique,” said Stackhouse. “They are intent on getting us access to high-caliber courses where many men’s majors have also been hosted. It’s a chance for us to showcase our talents on incredibly respected venues. It will continue to elevate women’s golf.”
And the Summit, she says, “is huge. They bring in women from around the country who are incredibly successful in their arenas. There’s a unique commitment to the growth of women in general and I’m incredibly inspired by that event.”
Stackhouse hopes to soon meet another of her inspirations -- paying a visit to Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, to meet Powell.
“I am one who genuinely respects the voices and the game-changers who came before us,” said Stackhouse. “I want to play golf with Renee and spend some time with her. She has been incredibly generous in staying in the game and lending her name to a legacy. You want to listen. My goal is to be the best golfer I can be and then continue to invest in this sport outside of just my journey as a professional golfer.”