BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Growing up without a right hand, 15-year-old Sophia Howard’s parents weren’t sure how well she would integrate with sports. They suggested she try soccer, but she had her heart set on golf.
“I think I knew I would be at a disadvantage, but I don’t think that stopped me,” Sophia said. “I don’t think I thought about (my arm) when I picked up golf.”
Just like most learning the game, she struggled at first.
“She was missing the ball and whiffing it often,” her mother Karen Howard recalled.
But Sophia improved as she modeled her game after her idols, LPGA golfers and sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda. She watched the duo for years on television, but nothing compared to meeting them in person.
“I was kind of scared, a little nervous. Kind of freaking out,” Sophia said.
Last year, she walked with Nelly Korda during the Meijer LPGA Classic and played nine holes with both sisters at their own course. After a day like that, Sophia was inspired to be the best golfer she can be.
“I don’t want to be defined by (my arm.) I might look different when I swing the golf club, but at the same time I go out and play my game,” Sophia said.
In only five years on the course, Sophia is making waves, earning an ambassadorship from Nike and a spot at the USGA Adaptive Open, where she will compete with athletes three times her age.
“I’m the youngest of 96” competitors invited, Sophia said.
Being the youngest doesn’t faze her. Sophia is used to being the underdog. That attitude is inspiring others.
“There are several juniors who come into clinics and she works with them, talks with them, plays with them,” Karen said. “What’s really special is she can be a great inspiration to young athletes that come after her.”
“I have a hard time realizing people might look up to me like I look up to the Korda sisters,” Sophia said. “I don’t think my brain realizes I might be an inspiration to other kids. But I think it’s cool when I look at it. I could inspire someone.”
It’s near impossible to keep a club out of Sophia’s hand, because to her, golf isn’t just a game: It’s a chance to inspire girls just like her that anything is possible.