Jaycee Rhodes is preparing for her final high school golf tournament before she heads off to college. The Eastview High School graduate will represent Minnesota in the 2020 Girls High School Golf Invitational in North Carolina on August 3-5.
Due to the spring sports season getting canceled by the global pandemic, Rhodes instead played in the Minnesota High School Senior Showcase, a non-Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned tournament in June. She stormed from behind to win this year’s Showcase by a stroke.
Rhodes was a two-time Class 2A state competitor, finishing tied for 14th in 2018, her sophomore year at Visitation. Then she transferred to Eastview but wasn’t eligible to play varsity as a result: “I had already lost my junior year,” said Rhodes. Then COVID-19 knocked out her senior season at Eastview.
The young lady first played golf as a preschooler. “I officially carried my clubs when I was three years old, but I started playing tournaments at the age of six,” said Rhodes proudly.
Jaycee’s father, James Rhodes, said he began bringing his young daughter with him to the course when he played. “Instead of getting a daycare, I’d bring her out on the course. I let her go out and hit, and she fell in love” with the sport, he recalled.
“My dad and my uncle were telling me that I have a natural swing,” Jaycee said. “It was so much fun.” She later joined the Fairway Foundation, a local group that has promoted and taught golf and other life skills to youth of color since 1993.
“Jaycee started with us when she was six and has grown in our organization,” Fairway Board President Erick Goodlow told the MSR. He said Rhodes exemplifies the foundation’s key objectives: “A straight-A student, she’s effortlessly one of the most down-to-earth, honest young persons you want to meet.
“Part of our goals at the Fairway Foundation [is to] provide the tools and the skills…to compete at the highest level in golf, and ultimately produce a state champion at that level, both boys and girls,” Goodlow explained. He said Rhodes is the third Fairway member to compete at the state tournament, but the first to win a state title.
But—as both Goodlow and her father stressed—the soft-spoken Rhodes can be as tough as she needs to be. “I am competing against myself on the golf course,” she said. “I’m focused on my game and how I am playing. I wanted to be out there and I wanted to win.
“Since I was in seventh grade, I have been playing varsity with all the seniors and juniors. It made me a stronger person,” said Rhodes. She added that she loves playing in the summer tournaments “where the true players come out, the true competition, a true field.”
Whether she’s playing local, state or national tournaments, Jaycee usually stands out as golf continues, with few exceptions, to be a majority-White sport. Her father says this fact at times has been harder on him than on his daughter: “[She] deals with it better than I do,” James said. “You still get that look from some [people].”
“It feels amazing to be out there representing my culture and my people and my family,” added Jaycee. After the Carolina tournament, Jaycee heads to St. Catherine’s, where she is one of five first-year members on the school’s golf team.
“This is my time to shine,” she said. “I’m ready for it.”