Mia Scrimgeour. Photo / Supplied
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Young golfer Mia Scrimgeour wants Māori tournaments to be recognized the same as other regional and national competitions.
The teenager, heading to Missouri Southern State University on a scholarship, advises young athletes to “do what everyone else is too lazy to do”.
Becoming a freshman this August, Scrimgeour talks about how she got into golf and her struggles with the politics and loneliness of the sport.
How did you get into golf?
I started playing golf when I was five years old. My dad worked for Motorsport New Zealand and at work do’s would often play golf. Being competitive, he would train for these and I would go along to the driving range with him and hit golf balls. One day a guy came up to my dad saying I was “kind of good” and asked if he’d ever considered putting me into lessons.
After this, my dad put me into lessons at Karori Golf Club and that was it, my journey began. I would go to coaching every Sunday just for the chocolate bar after winning the putting competition. I think this probably grew my love for the game the most. When I was nine years old, I first represented Wellington at the Girls National Interprovincial, playing at Arikikapakapa Golf Club in Rotorua. This was also the first competition where I captained a representative team. I went on to play in this competition for seven years.
I first represented Wellington in their women’s team when I was 12 and then New Zealand when I was 15 years old at the ANNIKA Invitational. My handicap is 0 and I have gradually moved up the ranks in Wellington and New Zealand from around eight years old.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
If anything, it’s the politics of it all. Of course, every sport has politics, but should you have to deal with that at nine years old when all you want to do is be the best golfer you possibly can be? No! I felt that my ambition was often squashed by the politics of it all.
I found it hard because I am a very social person, loved a ton of different sports, and had a social life – realizing that ultimately golf wasn’t my whole life. I felt because of this, I was punished and not selected for the team. Not because I wasn’t necessarily as good as the other girls but because I didn’t put my whole heart, soul, sweat, tears and mind into golf. I felt looked down on and an outcast to the rest
I mostly struggle with the loneliness of golf. Yes, I know it is an individual sport that I signed up for, but it doesn’t have to be an individual sport. I often felt quite alone which made me not want to train and practice as much as I should have.
What does it mean for you to be a successful Māori athlete?
Unfortunately, in golf, it doesn’t mean an awful lot. I have won the Māori National Championships two years in a row but it didn’t open as many doors as I believe it should have. When I won the 2020 Māori Women’s Championships, the male winner was awarded an entry into the NZ Open and was interviewed on Sky TV, but I walked away with nothing. Not that I was asking for fame or anything, just the chance of playing at such a prestige tournament would have been amazing. The Māori Golf Nationals and various regional competitions are some of the best tournaments I have ever played in and should be recognized as just as important as any other national or regional championship.
Why did you want to play in America?
I have wanted to go to America for university since I was about seven years old. People would always ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I would always say that I wanted to go to America to study law and play golf. America just always seemed to have more opportunities and pathways than any other country, especially when it comes to golf. Lots of golfers I know from New Zealand have taken this, done incredibly well and loved it pathway.
Where are you going and what was the process for getting there?
I chose Missouri Southern State University because they seemed more like us Kiwis than any other school I talked to. They’re about the people – supportive, encouraging and just seemed like a cool bunch of people to be around every single day for the next four years.
I learned that you can get to America without having to pay thousands of dollars for an agency. Just do what everyone else is too lazy to do, send out 100 emails to 100 different schools, follow 500 different coaches and universities on Instagram, call coaches, email them videos of you, and just keep putting yourself in front of them in any way possible. I worked for my scholarship through an Instagram page putting myself in front of as many universities as possible. Because I couldn’t fly over to the States, social media was definitely one of the best ways to connect with coaches.
I was following hundreds of different universities’ Instagram accounts just hoping that a couple of them follow me back and view my stuff. It was a long process with very little reward until the very end when my coach awarded me the full scholarship to MSSU.
What are you looking forward to about the move to the States?
I’m looking forward to the opportunities. To play golf at courses I would never otherwise play. Get a degree and experience both the world and different cultures in a different way from what I do now. I plan to study international, political and legal affairs, alongside business. In America, you can’t take undergrad law so I took the degree that I thought would best prepare me for law school and building a business from the ground up.
Tell us about your fundraising.
I’m organizing an Ambrose golf tournament to help me fundraise for my journey to America. Although I have a scholarship, there are still a lot of expenses I am expected to pay. I’m fundraising through the best way I know possible: golf. This will be held at Manor Park Golf Club on Friday, 8 July. Anyone wanting to sponsor or support the event – or take part – should go to www.skylaevents.com.