Porter, Texas native and First Tee of Greater Houston member Ariana Saenz, 15, was one of 80 junior golfers from across the country that earned an invitation to the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship National Finals held at Augusta National Golf Club.
But Ariana is more than your typical golf prodigy, she’s a story of inspiration for mothers and daughters everywhere.
Ariana began playing golf after undergoing open-heart surgery at age 3. Following the surgery, her doctors suggested that she take up an activity that would keep her active. Her father bought her a set of toy golf clubs, and she’s been playing ever since.
In 2015, her golf game became more than just healthy exercise. It became a key component of her mother’s battle with breast cancer.
Her mother, Maria, was diagnosed in February. Soon after, Ariana signed up for the Drive, Chip & Putt competition in part to offer her mother a distraction from the difficult months ahead. Ariana reached the regional qualifier – one step away from Augusta National – but had to compete without her mother present due to scheduled chemotherapy treatments.
Playing for her mother, Ariana went on to capture the Girls 14-15 Division at the South Central regional qualifier with a score of 119 points. Afterwards, she phoned home to tell her anxious mother they would be heading to the Masters for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.
Ariana was also selected to play at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in September 2014.
Ariana credits the game of golf for getting both her and her mother through tough times in their lives and she strives to give back by participating in the First Tee program and encouraging others to pick up the game.