Paige Crawford Hopes to Encourage Others to Pursue Dreams No Matter What

Paige Crawford fell in love with watching golf on TV.

Her dad Keith had taken up the game later in his life, and as a self-proclaimed “Daddy’s girl,” Crawford often found her sports-loving, seven-year-old self watching ESPN alongside her father. But instead of basketball or football, Crawford was particularly enamored with golf and was inspired watching Tiger Woods in the midst of his heyday, a superstar whose talent seemed to transcend all convention of an uber-traditional game.

Crawford ultimately begged her father to get her a set of clubs, and when he finally gave in, she spent hours hitting them, whacking wiffle ball after wiffle ball toward a tree in her backyard, trying to emulate the success of those she saw on television as dreams danced in her head of what she could do when she finally got to step on a golf course.

Eventually, Keith brought his daughter to the driving range and got her a better set of clubs, and Crawford started working hard on her game, setting a goal to get good enough so she could tee it up with her dad and his friends. When that finally happened, Crawford wound up beating the group of middle-aged guys quite often, showing early signs of a talent that would shape her life as she got older.

After playing high school golf, Crawford continued her career at Montana State University, winning the Big Sky Conference Championship as a junior in 2013 with a 54-hole total of 8-under (208), a tournament record that stood until Sophie Hausmann broke it with a 10-under total in 2018. The Colorado native was the first player from Montana State to win conference as an individual since 1995, a huge accomplishment for the mid-major Division I university.

Crawford decided to turn professional after graduating from MSU, a move that seemed natural considering the success she’d had in college and her love of golf. But Crawford quickly realized that chasing her dreams was going to come at a cost, one that she would have to work hard to pay if she wanted to have an opportunity to compete at the highest level.

“I turned pro, and reality hit that golf is expensive,” Crawford remembers. “It took me quite some years to be able to play full-time. After I graduated, I was only playing a handful of tournaments, and that was very frustrating for me because I knew I could be a better golfer if I consistently competed.”

So, Crawford did what any young athlete hungry to make their goals reality does – she went to work.

“I started working at a golf course, and then I started working at a climbing gym also part-time,” said Crawford. “COVID hit, and I started playing more golf since the golf course was closed on the pro shop side. I fell in love with the game again and enjoyed playing different courses. They were a little more affordable then, some courses I never got to play. Then, when I went back to the golf course when they reopened, I was just kind of over it, and I was like I really want to pursue it full-time.”

With that goal in mind, and after her partner – and sometimes caddie – Megan purchased a sprinter van, Crawford became part of the van-life community, and the two set off, driving around the United States so Crawford could pursue her professional golf dreams while Megan worked remotely and caddied for her on occasion.

Paige Crawford of the United States hits a tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at Upper Montclair Country Club on May 11, 2023 in Clifton, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
“I always wanted to live in a van, and (Megan) was able to buy one and she wanted to too,” Crawford explained. “And she was like, ‘You need to quit your job and let's get on the road and try it out. You can always get another job if things don't work out.’ So, I quit my job at the golf course and got on the road.

“It's been amazing ever since. I'm grateful that I took that leap, even though I was scared of the unknown.”

While some LPGA and Epson Tour players have chosen to live in RVs to save on the many expenses that come with being a full-time professional golfer over the course of a season, Crawford’s van life is a bit more untraditional. It’s often glamorized on social media as an exciting, adventurous way to see the world, and though that’s partially true, it also comes with its own set of challenges, including break-downs and mechanical issues, both of which Crawford and her partner have experienced plenty of throughout the past three and a half years of van living.

“Lately, it's been frustrating because the van has so many miles on it. We've (broken) down a few times,” laughed Crawford. “It's chaotic, but you learn how to adapt and not get so stressed. I think that's been good for me because I felt like before, I would get stressed easily if something went wrong, and now it's like, okay, this is happening. Let me figure it out.”

It's an untraditional way to live, one that has its fair share of adversity despite public appearances, but as with many other facets of her life, Crawford is a person who embraces unconventionality, something that has been a constant in her journey as a professional golfer.

Even though the numbers have started to increase in recent years, there still aren’t a ton of Black women pursuing professional golf at the highest level, and even fewer have had the opportunity to compete on the LPGA Tour. Crawford recognized this disparity early in her career, and she knows how important it is for young athletes to see her chasing her dreams as a Black professional golfer, no matter what her results look like, and the significance of being a role model for her community.

“When I turned pro, it was definitely noticeable. Growing up in Colorado, there was no black women's golfer playing,” said Crawford. “The last few years, I've been seeing more and more Black women pursuing the game professionally, which has been nice. We are there for each other. I love where it's going. As I've grown older, I want to be a role model for the generations coming up, and to help them understand things that they may not know.

“Going into professional golf, I didn't know anything. It was all just me experiencing and learning things on my own. Black girls who are playing at the mini-tour level that are younger than me reach out to me and ask me questions about how to go about things, and I think that's awesome to help them with that since I didn't have that when I was trying to play.”

“It's great to see so many black girls playing now. I'm really excited for the future. I see us having many more black players on the LPGA and PGA Tour. It's cool that my generation – Shasta (Averyhardt), Mariah (Stackhouse), Lakareber (Abe) and Anita (Uwadia) – like we're trying to break those barriers to help the future generations make it a little easier for them to get on Tour.”

And while she isn’t quite a member just yet, Crawford got an idea of what that dream would look like last year on the LPGA Tour.

The now 32-year-old won both THE JOHN SHIPPEN Cognizant Cup and THE JOHN SHIPPEN National Invitational in 2023, victories that earned her berths in the LPGA Tour’s Cognizant Founders Cup, Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and Dow Championship, the last of which saw her team up with Madison Barnett, another African American professional golfer.

Even though she missed playing the weekend in all three of those starts, the exposure and experience that Crawford gleaned from competing with the world’s best golfers on the biggest stage in the women’s game has been invaluable to her journey thus far as it has served as a reminder of what she’s chasing after and the change she’s trying to help effect. And Crawford is so grateful to THE JOHN SHIPPEN for giving her the chance to see up close and personally what her future could ultimately look like if she were to make it to the LPGA Tour one day.

“These opportunities are amazing. I'm so grateful for THE JOHN SHIPPEN,” Crawford said in a pre-tournament press conference at the 2023 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. “They are my favorite tournaments. I appreciate them getting Black girls out here to play golf, exposing us to the top level, playing really nice courses, getting these sponsor exemptions. It's an amazing experience. It's life-changing for us. We don't get these opportunities often, and I'm just so grateful for them.”

After advancing from LPGA and Epson Tour Qualifying Tournament Stage I and competing in Stage II last October, Crawford will have full Epson Tour status for the 2024 season, which begins in early March at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. While she isn't much of a goal-setter, the 32-year-old would consider playing well enough to skip Stage I – an event she has struggled with in the past – as her main objective for this season on the Epson Tour, and she’s also looking forward to playing in other events around the country, most of all THE JOHN SHIPPEN tournaments.

But with money still very much being a big factor in her professional golf journey, Crawford isn’t super confident in how much she’ll be able to compete this year.

Paige Crawford of the United States tees off on the third holeduring the second round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club on July 20, 2023 in Midland, Michigan.
“I am so excited. This is what I’ve been wanting to get to for so long,” said Crawford of having Epson Tour status this season. “I'm looking forward to some of the West Coast swing. I like playing on the West Coast, so hopefully, I could get into some of those events. I'm looking forward to playing THE JOHN SHIPPEN events again and hopefully playing the Colorado Open. Right now, money-wise, it's kind of iffy. We'll see what happens. I’m just going to play until I run out of money. That's how it's been the last few years, and it's seemed to work out.”

Regardless of that fact, Crawford is just going to keep plugging along, embracing each challenge that comes her way and hoping to inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter what difficulties stand in the way of doing so. She never could've pictured what this life would look like when she was begging her father for golf clubs all those years ago, and she never could’ve guessed the opportunities she’d have because of her ability on the golf course.

But here she is, living her dream, and Crawford hopes that her career sends a message of perseverance and resilience to those who, like herself, are trying to accomplish big things and who are trying to make an impact so that others can make their own dreams a reality too.

“I definitely want to show that no matter what, no matter your age, no matter the barriers you have, you can still follow your dreams,” Crawford said. “I don't want people to give up on their dreams, even if they're older, or they have all these barriers. I want people to see that if Paige can pursue her dreams being older, not really having much money, like I can follow my dreams, too.

“Even if people say you're too old for that, or people don't want to give you money because you're older, you haven't performed well, still keep following your dreams. You never know what will happen.”