One young woman is helping open doors to PGA opportunities

Paloma Santiago (center) on the golf course.
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Paloma Santiago (center) on the golf course.

Paloma Santiago has been in love with the game of golf since she was nine.

That love for the game had driven Santiago to create Live Golf in 2017, a non-profit designed to expose people to various opportunities within the game of golf.

The non-profit in Mercer County, which is named after living the golf lifestyle, focuses on the business of golf through mentorship by helping people get access to PGA Professionals and Industry Professionals.

“I created Live Golf to give back to my community in 2017, because I felt there was a need for it. Not a lot of people have been exposed to the game,” said the 24-year-old Santiago. “When I speak to people about what I have been exposed to, people say they wish they would have known. I tell them that it is still not too late to start regardless of age, race and financial background.”

The resident of Lawrence Township said she wanted make the sport more inclusive.

“I definitely want to make golf an inclusive sport for anyone whether it be for women, people with a military background, or those who are disabled. I wanted to include people who do not have the opportunity to just go on the golf course,” Santiago said. “I want to expose people to the opportunities that can come through the game of golf; whether that be therapeutic, a hobby, or a career choice.”

She said when she was younger she did not know you could work on a golf course as a teenager in areas such as outside operations.

“So I want to show people what is available to them,” Santiago said. “For instance, there are different types of grass you have to learn about. So this game and the business around it is truly interesting.”

For Santiago the non-profit is exposing people not only to the business of golf, but the sport itself.

Santiago was introduced to the game of golf when she was nine through an inner city program called “Greater Trenton Junior Golf.

“At first this was something new. No one in my family plays golf, so picking up this sport was out of the blue,” Santiago said. “I picked it up as talent. I was just really good at it. Ever since then I have been playing competitively and going through PGA lessons.”

She would continue golf through her high school years on varsity, where she would earn the title of captain on the boy’s golf team at Lawrence High School.

“I look at my high school career as preparation for college. It was just nice to be included with the boys and play with that skill level,” Santiago said. “It was an opportunity to grow competitively and learn more about the game.”

During those years, she had the aspirations of becoming a PGA club professional.

A PGA club professional is someone who serves as a recognized teacher and leader of the game of golf and promotes its growth. According to the PGA of America, club professionals can have careers in golf operations, teaching and coaching and executive management.

After graduating high school, Santiago went on to play for the woman’s golf team at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C.

Santiago selected the university as it is home to one of 18 accredited PGA Golf Management University programs in the United States.

She graduated from Methodist University in 2016 with a degree in business. When she graduated college, Santiago was then elected to PGA Membership.

“In high school I always wanted to be involved in sports media. I had started talking to my PGA coaches and other mentors and they told me to go the PGA professional route because I was so involved with golf,” Santiago said. “They said there were schools that offered these programs and I took advantage of the opportunity because I truly love golf. I really though wanted to be involved with sports and the business of sports.”

Santiago has been a PGA professional since 2017 and said the best part of the game has been all of the opportunities within it.

She plans on playing and touring in the coming year but for now, she is busy operating her non-profit while also working as a real estate agent and PGA club professional.

“The people you meet, the multiple things you can get involved in, and the business transactions are just amazing. It puts a smile on my face when I see other people learning and growing in the game of golf,” she said about her involvement in golf. “It is really heartwarming to help expose the opportunities for people in this sport.”