If you asked Cathryn Sardina to describe herself, she would tell you she’s an eLeader for LPGA*USGA Girls Golf. She spent the last weekend in Naples, Florida – two hours from her hometown in Miami – leading a junior golf clinic at the CME Group Tour Championship alongside her fellow eLeaders from Miami. Her first job at the clinic? Dance coordinator.  

Just as the event kicked off, Sardina turned up the music and started dancing in front of all the young participants as they filed into the event. At first, everyone just stared at her, wondering what she was doing. But she didn’t stop and soon a dance circle formed around her.  

Anyone would assume that Sardina is just a precocious extrovert, blessed with confidence from birth, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, if not for the eLeader program, Sardina would still be a shy girl that avoided the spotlight whenever she could. 

“This is what made me, me,” Sardina said, breathless after dancing her heart out. “I was not like this before. I was really shy. I was always someone in the corner until I became an eLeader. Being an eLeader helped me come out of my shell by talking to these girls. That’s how I became so outgoing. They really inspired me. 

“It just made me so happy to see all these kids joining the circle when I didn’t even tell them to. That just makes me feel like ‘Oh, I did something right. I made someone feel more confident in themselves.’” 

Prior to 2015, Girls Golf didn’t have a program for girls over 13-years-old to continue their golf education; they left that up to local high schools. But not every school district has the same opportunities and Girls Golf soon noticed that there was a steep drop off in golf participation as their alumni became teenagers. That’s how the eLeader program was born – to fill that gap in golf education for girls aged 13 to 18. Over 400 girls nationwide became eLeaders in 2022, the largest program membership ever. 

“I wanted to become an eLeader because I was starting to get a little older and the clinics weren’t made for me anymore,” said Oakley Sever, another Miami eLeader who has been a participant in Girls Golf since she was eight years old. “I decided instead of doing the clinics, I wanted to help. I started volunteering for the camps and the clinics for Girls Golf Miami and it’s been fun.” 

Though it is a lot of fun, being an eLeader is more than just dancing. eLeaders are volunteers that aid Girls Golf instructors at their respective sites during classes and clinics. Prior golf experience is not required as eLeaders can choose an area of interest – anything from golf instruction, mentoring, lesson planning and data entry to social media and photography – to specialize in. eLeaders can also apply to join the eLeader Board of Directors. On the board, eLeaders work directly with LPGA staff and site directors to expand Girls Golf.  

At the CME Group Tour Championship clinic, there was only one child not in the dance circle: a very young girl – barely 3-feet tall – in a lilac dress bawling her eyes out. Despite all the fun everyone else was having, eLeader Sara Matos never left her side and helped the girl find her dad. 

If you talk to Matos even for a moment, its unsurprising to see her take charge and help a crying child. Her maturity and sense of responsibility is astounding. But like Sardina, Matos was shy when she was young. Being a part of the eLeader program has helped her build confidence and hone her public speaking skills to the point where she can stand in front of hordes of kids or one crying child and command their attention. 

“I want these girls to learn to have the confidence to be able to speak in front of a room of people and not be shy and know that they can own that moment,” Matos said.  “Becoming an eLeader makes you feel that way. 

“If you’re trying to become an eLeader, I would say to you that you need to be sure that you want to change girls lives for the better, because that’s what you’re trying to do for these girls. You need to be a role model for these young girls.”  

Girls Golf has certainly benefited from the eLeader program. eLeaders provide one-on-one support for all the girls they coach. Many eLeaders have stories of girls they were able to bond with individually and boost their attendance in Girls Golf programs. In fact, Carolina Estrada managed to single handedly retain one student.  

“Celine started in The First Tee program, and she wasn’t really a big fan of golf,” Estrada said with a big smile. “She told me later on that the only reason she would go to First Tee was because of me. That just made me so happy. Now she’s brand new to the Girls Golf program, she’s made friends and I’m so proud of her. Her being able to join Girls Golf, because of me, and seeing her show up really makes me happy.” 

The benefits eLeaders receive from the program are just as significant as the benefits they provide. Besides the volunteer hours, college recommendation letters, entry into leadership academies and travel opportunities, eLeaders develop key soft skills that they will take with them through life.  

“I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is responsibility,” Sever explained. “You need to be responsible when you’re an eLeader. As a kid, you don’t have to do anything in these clinics, you just pay attention. But when you’re an eLeader, you have to focus and do your work and make sure you’re on track for everything.” 

Another part of being an eLeader is embodying and instilling the Five E’s of Girls Golf: empower, enrich, engage, energize and exercise. For Matos, Sardina and Estrada, the most important of those Five E’s is the first one, empower.  

“One word to describe being an eLeader is empowerment,” Estrada said. “Being able to empower the girls, keep a positive attitude, bring their moods up.” 

And it’s clear that the eLeader program has empowered Matos, Sardina, Estrada and Sever too; empowered them to be outspoken, responsible, kind and, most importantly, leaders.