Before Tiger Woods made his own history, Lake Mary golf phenom Sierra Brooks left her indelible mark at Augusta
When Sierra Brooks walked up to the storied 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club beside her caddie and father Brent in April, it was difficult to pinpoint who was the more emotional of the two.
“I was tearing up, and I didn’t want her to see it, so I would walk ahead,” Brent recalls. “I still tear up telling the story.”
His daughter had trouble suspending her own disbelief.
“It was surreal,” Sierra says. “It felt like I was living a dream out there.”
The University of Florida junior finished tied for 10th at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a new companion event to the Masters Tournament held the weekend before the iconic green-jacket extravaganza. But when Sierra signed her scorecard, she wasn’t just documenting a piece of sports history. She had carved a milestone for Lake Mary athletics.
Sierra got an early start on her personal tale of resiliency right here at Lake Mary Prep. She nearly brought the individual Class 1A state title to the school in her freshman year before coming up short in a playoff against another Orlando golfer, Simin Feng. Sierra would have to wait until her junior year to have a breakthrough, running away with the team and individual title.
She had all the makings of a local legend, but sacrifice was the exchange. The dedicated athlete missed most quintessential high-school moments, including proms, homecomings, and the first day of her senior year.
As graduation approached, Sierra was ranked as high as third in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings, traveling all across the world to compete.
As if golf wasn’t enough, Sierra was a member of the Lake Mary Prep track and field team, too.
Her drive for success started early, born out of some quality father-daughter bonding. Sierra had a competitive desire to be where a lot of eight-year-old girls weren’t: Eagle Dunes Golf Club in Lake County. Then, Redtail Golf Club became her second home in middle and high school.
She finished in the top 15 at the U.S. Kids World Championship in 2006. At age nine, she became one of the only girls to have ever made a hole-in-one at an Orlando U.S. Kids event, hosted by Sweetwater Country Club in Apopka. She spent three consecutive years placing inside the top five at the annual championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She eventually won that title at age 12, in 2010.
Central Florida caught wind. Sierra Brooks was the real deal.
Shortly after, the elite college golf programs took notice, as well.
The coaches called. The visits happened.
But initial excitement for Sierra quickly turned into stress.
“I felt pressure to make a decision in just a few months, which led me to rush the whole process when I had just finished eighth grade,” she says.
Just shy of ninth grade, Sierra decided her college years would be best spent at the University of Florida. It seemed to be her destiny. Growing up, rooting for the Florida Gators is all Sierra knew. But her junior year of high school brought indecision. Sierra decided to rethink her early choice.
She ultimately decommitted from Florida and chose Wake Forest. But it didn’t work out. A lingering wrist injury affected Sierra to the point where she and her family both questioned whether or not she’d be able to play golf pain-free again. She couldn’t play a full round of golf without a flare-up. That led her to set her sights on LPGA Q-School and the professional ranks. Then came a phone call.
It was UF’s women’s golf coach Emily Glaser, who had known Sierra since her original commitment. A spot had opened up on the team.
“My year has had me searching far and wide for answers, which has led me to a decision to play golf for the University of Florida in the spring,” Sierra announced on her personal blog.
The first tournament at Florida was nothing like her struggles at Wake Forest. Instead of leaving with a throbbing wrist, Sierra took the individual title at the 2018 Florida Challenge, finishing six under par.
“When she came [to Florida], it put everyone on our team on notice,” Coach Glaser says.
With three individual titles and five top-10s in just three semesters, it’s easy to speculate if Sierra might have known deep down where she was meant to be all along.
“I ended up coming back to the right place, so it ended up working out for me,” she says.
With his daughter just two hours from home, Brent has been able to watch Sierra evolve as a player from her days at Lake Mary Prep.
“Sierra just has so much more poise and is more calm than she was back then,” Brent says.
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament served as a crucial point for Sierra, who had trouble breaking inside the top-20 in spring tournaments after aggravating her back from winter-break workouts. She became a major anchor in Florida’s postseason run, turning in three top-10 finishes, including runner-up in the stroke play portion of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship. But this was something extra special: A chance to play in the very first women’s tournament of its kind at Augusta National.
After opening Sierra’s invitation, which was accidentally sent to their Lake Mary home, her father sensed her turning the corner, due in part to hard work and the maturity gained from college.
“Sierra plays up to the bigger events,” Brent says. “Her golf game is really starting to come together.”
Whether at America’s most famous course or at home in Lake Mary, dad and daughter have always bonded through the game. Even when Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida suggested Sierra use a local caddie at Augusta National, Sierra chose her father, instead.
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