The season of giving extended into early January for two-time NBA All-Star Andre Drummond, who had a special surprise for LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix alumna Sydnee-Reese Harris.
On January 6, 2021, Drummond took to Instagram to share a video announcing Harris as the recipient of the $5,000 SportsHi College Scholarship Award that he sponsors.
“Sydney-Reese exemplifies the type of student-athlete we want to support,” said SportsHi CEO and founder Alexander Miles in a release. “As an African-American female playing golf, there are multiple barriers she is overcoming and if we can play a small role in her journey, that’s exactly the reason why we started SportsHi.”
Harris found out about the scholarship through social media. Once she heard the name, she did some research and downloaded SportsHi, an app dedicated to accelerating high school athletes’ aspirations.
“It was crazy. There were around 2,000 applicants,” said Harris of the scholarship. “SportsHi and Andre Drummond put together the final six and so that’s when I got an email about an interview with Alexander Miles. A few weeks after that, he emailed me and said, ‘Oh we just have a few more things to talk about.’ Then I open up the Zoom and I see Andre Drummond’s face on my screen. It was absolutely crazy and so fun! I was so surprised and definitely not expecting it.”
Harris is a basketball fan who “absolutely loves the game” and watching professionals play it. While the surprise from Drummond was incredible in itself for her, it was especially meaningful in reinforcing her hard work.
“It meant everything to me, because it really showed that my hard work paid off and that all my ambitions and wants were actually met,” said Harris. “It showed me that I can actually do things and be acknowledged for it. So that really did light a fire in me to try for more things that I never really thought I would be able to win.”
Harris started playing golf around the age of nine with her father, who is a member of the long-standing chapter of Arizona Chamber of Commerce Tourism board’s Thunderbirds, hosts of one of the PGA Tour’s largest tournaments, the Waste Management Phoenix Open. After competing in a Junior Golf Association of Arizona event and realizing she wasn’t quite ready for the competitive tournaments, she started exploring other organizations. And that’s when she found out about LPGA*USGA Girls Golf.
“I just thought it was so fun, it was so colorful, and it took some stress off of, ‘I need to shoot well,’” said Harris. “I met some great people while playing Girls Golf of Phoenix. I remember playing an event with my dad and it was so much fun, and there was candy – I just loved that.
“I really got into golf not just because of my dad, but because I knew this was a sport that I could play my whole life and it could really benefit me in my communicating and networking skills,” said Harris. “So, I would love to play golf in college, however that might not happen. But I’m always keeping my mind open to it. I’m a student-athlete, so I’m really focusing on the student part and my academics. And I really want to go to a top-tier college that’s competitive to where I can really fight for my spot and I can earn it. After college, I feel like when I get into business, then golf will also be a really big part of my life too, because then I can go out and play with business partners.”
Harris is now a junior in high school, competing on the varsity golf team for the past three years at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. She loves the competitive side of the game. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, her high school season looked a little different than normal.
“At first, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a season,” said Harris. “COVID opened up my eyes to see that things can be taken away so easily. So, I think right now I definitely appreciate the game of golf way more than I did before COVID started.”
Outside of golf, Harris loves to play the flute and is involved with clubs such as in HOSA (Future Health Professionals, formerly Health Occupations Students of America) and the National Honor Society. As the secretary of HOSA, she works a lot on helping students that are interested in the medical field. Harris has a passion for helping those in the community, her school, and pursuing her #LittleGirlsBIGDreams, the driving moto behind the Girls Golf Programming.
“For the longest time, I wanted to be a surgeon, but now I’m thinking more about what I can do behind the scenes to better the medical system and the health system right now. So, I’m looking more into a laboratory, scientist, chemist, that kind of job in the future.”
While her future aspirations lie off the golf course, Harris knows that golf will always be a part of her life; however, she recognizes that the game has a lot of work to do in making Black girls and women, like herself, feel welcome.
“Competitive golf in general, but specifically in Arizona has been really tough as an ethnic minority, and I found the sport to be a lonely journey. I just don’t know when I’m on the putting green warming up if people are looking at me because I’m Black or it’s because they’re surprised to see me there in the first place.
“And I think organizations like Girls Golf, Cori [Matheson, Site Director for Girls Golf of Phoenix], and the First Tee representatives have done a great job at making oppressed people feel like they belong somewhere. And they don’t discriminate, and I think that’s a really awesome thing. I just wanted to put that out there that I love Cori and I love Girls Golf.”