Paving the Fairway
Rayven Barnes’ Journey as Independence High’s First Black Female Golfer
GREENSBORO, NC (January 1, 2024) – When a seat at the table is not available for you, bring a chair. Better yet, build another table.
In the halls of Independence High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rayven Barnes walks with a purpose. A high school senior and a two-sport varsity athlete in golf and cheerleading, she has inscribed her name into the school’s history as its first black female golfer. The odyssey began almost three years ago, and in an interview with the REACH Carolinas team, Rayven shared her unorthodox introduction to the game.
“While playing with my dog, I just picked up a club and started hitting it against a magnolia tree in our yard or on the sidewalk,” she revealed. Her initial incursion into golf didn’t sit well with her father, who promptly sentenced her to caddy duty for a round. Whether by accident or by design, this was the start of Rayven’s journey into the world of golf.
Fast forward to September 2023, as the Independence High School Lady Patriots, led by Rayven, prepared for their first match after receiving instruction with Rushi Oza, PGA. The Patriots are one of eight schools throughout Mecklenburg and Guilford County associated with the Harvick4HighSchoolGolf program.
Through fundraising efforts from the Kevin Harvick Foundation and the PGA REACH Carolinas Foundation, Harvick4HighSchoolGolf has been able to provide PGA Professional instruction, uniforms, team golf bags, golf clubs, hats, golf balls, and additional items to help Title 1 schools throughout the Carolinas have a successful golf season.
To build out the team of two, Rayven recruited a friend, who then recruited her friends to join the team. The group, who had largely never played golf before, unfortunately fell short of qualifying for the State Tournament. However, the season was a valuable learning experience for the entire team, with Rayven herself managing to improve her game and achieve a personal best score.
In a sport where representation has been lacking, Rayven finds inspiration in golfers like Troy Mullins, the first African-American woman to win the World Long Drive Tour competition. Rayven admires not only Mullins’ powerful play style but also her fashion sense and lifestyle both on and off the course.
When asked about being the first black female golfer in Independence High School’s 60-year history, Rayven described it as “trailblazing”. She expressed gratitude for the support from different groups and the recognition the golf team received, bringing historically overlooked sports into the spotlight.
Reflecting on her high school career, Rayven shared an important moment when her coach, Ms. Lauren Schultz, sent her a letter acknowledging her impact on the golf team. The letter fueled Rayven’s determination to make golf a space for her, even when she felt like the odd one out on the course. The message? “You have created a seat at the table for yourself.”
Sharing her joy, Rayven recounted the moment she posted about playing golf and defying stereotypes. “It gives me a lot of joy to let people know that [black] women can do this,” she said. With only eight full-time LPGA players who identify as black women in its history, Rayven stands tall, building on the legacy of pioneers like Althea Gibson, Renee Powell, Laree Sugg, and Mariah Stackhouse.
Looking to the future, Rayven, while still in her senior year, has her eyes set on college. With all her applications submitted, she aspires to study political science and possibly double major in criminal justice. Her dream is to attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and continue her journey on the women’s golf team.
As Rayven Barnes paves the way for future generations, her journey is a testament to breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and creating a lasting legacy on and off the golf course.
About PGA REACH Carolinas
The PGA REACH Carolinas Foundation is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and philanthropic arm of the Carolinas PGA Section, the largest of the 41 sections in the United States. Our 2,200 members across North and South Carolina are committed to serving our communities and growing the game of golf through our three pillars: Youth, Military, and Diversity & Inclusion. Signature programs include PGA HOPE, PGA Junior League, Drive, Chip & Putt, Harvick4HighSchoolGolf, the Prokope Academy and the PGA WORKS Fellowship. For more information, please visit carolinas.pga.com/foundation/. You can also find PGA REACH Carolinas on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn @REACHCarolinas.
To read more on Harvick4HighSchoolGolf, please visit our 2023 Year-in-Review Magazine.
Jess Hanson, Director of Marketing, Carolinas PGA Section, (336) 398-2675, email@example.com