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USGA GOLF JOURNAL
Talking Golf: Tisha Alyn Abrea On a Scroll
June 24, 2021
By A.J. Voelpel
Let’s start by stating the obvious: Tisha Alyn Abrea is one hell of a golfer. And dancer. And broadcaster. And videographer, entertainer, editor, artist, creator and… dresser. She’s that friend who’s inexplicably good at everything, whether it’s tossing a perfect spiral, piercing an apple with an arrow or roundhouse-kicking a cap off a beer bottle.
But here’s the difference between your friends and Tisha. She’s so talented and savvy she went pro. In what? Well, all of it.
She parlayed her athleticism, wit and hustle into a full-time gig creating original content for some of the world’s biggest brands. In recent years, Instagram has become a battle royale for attention spans. To complete the algorithm-beating checklist, Abrea has a smoothness that would foster a hat tip from Max Homa. Go get lost in her feed; it’s a master class in digital finesse.
Following a promising amateur and college golf career, Abrea turned pro to chase her lifelong dream of the LPGA Tour. But when expenses and injuries piled up, she saw an opportunity to market herself as what would later be called an influencer.
Q: When did you get started in golf?
My dad got me started when I was 3 years old, so there’s not a moment that I can recall not being into golf. And my dad wasn’t even a lifelong golfer, he just caught the bug and when he started playing, he took me to the range with him and asked, “Hey, do you want to hit balls?” Once I got up there, I didn’t really stop.
Q: Were you competitive?
I started competing when I was 7 years old. I was born in Rockford, Illinois, and raised in Chicago. That’s where a lot of my interest in hip-hop and dancing came from, but at the same time I was competing in golf, which is a very different culture. It’s almost like I had a split personality. We moved to California in 2005, when I was 11. That’s where I continued my amateur golf through high school and got a full scholarship to Cal State-Fullerton. Golf was always my path.
Q: That dream of competing on Tour was still the focus?
For sure. Watching Annika, and seeing Michelle Wie come out of the gate, that’s where I wanted to be. I knew that college golf was going to be the test to see where I stood. I was in this weird middle ground where I was winning tournaments, but then would have some really bad results, and I still thought I had to give it a go. My first year as a pro (2016), I won two mini-tour events and thought I was a baller, but of course, between the entry fees and expenses, I was in the red. Around that same time, social media was getting bigger, and a few people encouraged me to give social media content a try. And it was making me happy, so that’s when I knew that it would be my future.
Q: Was that a difficult decision?
Very much so. Being a professional golfer was my identity. But I didn’t love the grind; I loved the people I met and the way success felt. I realized I wasn’t in it for the right reasons. I was also very young and worried that I would lose respect from my peers, because there’s a big difference between a professional golfer and a social media personality. But at the end of the day, I asked myself, “Am I going to be the next Lydia Ko?” And the answer was no. I realized that I could have a positive impact on the game I love through social media. Telling my family was a real obstacle, because they weren’t on social media at the time. Now my mom has an Instagram account and is my biggest cheerleader.
Q: What are the best and worst parts about your job?
The best part is there are no boundaries. As long as you’re fearless, you can do whatever you want. I think what stops a lot of people – especially girls – is the fear of judgment. I’m willing to fight through the judgment that comes across on social media, which is definitely the negative side. People only know the life you put out there, and generally I’m only posting the happier sides of things because I want people to come to my page and feel good. But there is no question that words hurt. You can have a million compliments, but when you see that one negative comment, it hurts.
Q: Can you talk about your decision to come out?
I came out in June 2019. I had just gone through a series of crazy events in my personal life and was figuring things out. My decision very much rocked the traditions and culture of being Filipino. That’s when it was so hard to be on social media, because I truly thought that I was only showing one side of myself and not being authentic. When I finally overcame that, and my family and I came to a solid place, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. At some point I’m going to settle down, and I want to share my significant other on social. I just knew that I wanted to be real. I also didn’t know who to look up to. I had no one in the LGBTQ community to talk to, especially not in golf, and not in the Asian community. So I knew it was going to be good for me, and I knew it would help someone else. I get DMs all the time from people asking me for advice on how to do it.
Q: How do you feel about being asked to speak publicly about LGBTQ causes and other topics?
It does feel like I’m a go-to person for a comment. In my mind, I ask myself if this is the right time to speak, and what are the words I’m going to say. I always talk everything through with Ali [Abrea’s girlfriend] and my family to see what they think. It’s not a matter of whether I’m scared to speak about something; it’s more, what are the words I want to say so that I can sway someone. I just thought I was going to be a golf influencer. So I came out, but I don’t want that to define me. It’s always a balancing act. I’m always going to stand for the things I believe in, but the hardest part is choosing the right words. I want to make sure my personality is still there, but overall I’m trying to be a good human.
Q: What advice would you give someone who sees what you do and wants to do it, too?
People don’t realize what really goes into this. The biggest advice is to decide what you’re passionate about and create content about that, even if you have zero followers. Are you passionate enough about it to make it your side hustle? That’s first. And then second, find a gap or niche that you can fill. If you have a crazy idea, then go do that crazy idea. Work is life; life is work. I’m just lucky that work is fun.