Alexandra Braga, who recently joined Short Game Artists Golf Academy as Director of Instruction at Shoreline Golf Links, has seen tremendous success in golf both as a former tour player and being recognized by Golf Digest as one of America’s Best Young Instructors. Yet her achievements have not come easy. In this interview we hear her inspiring story.

Did you find success in golf early?

Director of Instruction: Alexandra Braga, PGA

I first started golfing at age 12, which is late by some standards. I was able to progress quickly and by 14 I was a nationally ranked junior. It was an exciting time because I had a promising career ahead of me. By high school I was being recruited to play on some of the better college golf teams.

Then you faced a life-changing tragedy?

When I was 16, I was on a class camping trip when a 50-foot, two-ton oak tree fell on me, breaking my bones, crushing my body. The pain was incredible. In the hospital I later learned that they placed me in a medically induced coma for two weeks. I was there for three months and underwent 35 major surgeries. The doctors told me that I would never walk again let alone play golf. Several months after the accident I was finally well enough to sit in a wheelchair and my dad took me outside into the sunshine. That’s when it really started to hit me – about what my future wouldn’t be. I had always thought I’d go to the LPGA.

Despite being told you would never walk, why did you refuse to give up on your dreams?

That day sitting in the sunshine I decided I wanted my life back. The accident made me understand how much I wanted it and how I was willing to work to get it back. I think that’s when I stopped listening to the doctors who told me what I’d never do again.

How did you recover?

Through a combination of stubbornness and sheer will. I spent 2½ months in rehabilitation. When the nurses were not watching I would drop the crutches and take some steps. In the hospital hallways I would lean on railings and force myself to walk. I just refused to let my dreams die.

When did you start golf again?

I hit my first golf ball about six months after the accident. I could swing a club, but walking was still very painful. A year later I was competing on the high school boys’ golf team. I had to get special permission to take a cart, but even on the boys’ team I still played as the team’s first or second highest ranked player. I was still too injured to play competitively in college, so I enrolled at USC with plans to go onto medical school.

Why didn’t give up on your dream?

Golf kept calling me back. I couldn’t hold back my passion for the game. In my senior year I switched my major and started seriously training for professional golf on the LPGA Tour. I forced myself to get stronger. I went from not being able to walk 9 holes to being able to walk 36. The pain was intense. I guess my rehabilitation has been one very long journey.

How did you start playing professionally?

I missed some cuts during my first attempts at Q School (the tour’s qualifying tournament). But I kept at it and after more rehab and even more surgeries in 2008 was able to earn standing on the LPGA Symetra Tour. I played as a tour player for six years. I lived my dream.

Getting on tour is difficult, even for those without injuries. Why do you think you made it?

In a strange way my accident helped me because it made me realize how much I truly loved golf and how much I missed it. I was so grateful for even the chance to play on tour because it made me appreciate every moment and every opportunity that I have in life. I was so thankful for the chance to be out there doing what I loved.

Your journey does not end there. You have been recognized for several years by Golf Digest Magazine as one of America’s Best Young Teachers, one of the highest achievements for golf instructors.

After I retired from the tour, I channeled my passion for golf into teaching. I’ve now been teaching for 10 years, have taught thousands of students and it never gets old. I want my students to be someone who can feel confident and strong, both on and off the golf course. I want to show them that anything is possible if they work hard and believe in themselves. As a mother of a young girl I want to show her that life has opportunities. I just want to keep teaching and help people fall in love with the game of golf like I did. That’s all that really matters to me.

Do you think your accident has made you a better teacher?

Absolutely. Golf comes easy to many professionals, and it did to me too until the accident. Then I had to struggle. Many of my students come to me struggling. I’m extremely empathetic as a teacher. But I also know – as I experienced – with direction and encouragement my students can succeed. For some that means breaking 100 for the first time. For others it may be playing on a college Division 1 golf team. I joke that I have so much passion it’s easy for me to share some.

How would you describe your coaching style?

I teach people the “why” behind the golf swing, not just the “how.” Understanding the game on a deeper level helps golfers stay calm under pressure. It’s also important to me to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable learning golf: newer golfers, women, seniors, juniors, people who historically have been excluded from the game, as well as long-time golfers who simply want to get better. I teach that golf is for everyone.

Despite your position as one of the Northern California’s best golf instructors, what keeps you motivated to keep improving?

I’m always looking to learn more. From becoming a PGA Class-A Professional to TPI Level 3 and many others I’m always getting the latest certification, studying great players, and asking myself how I can continue to improve as a teacher. It’s a journey, not a destination.

What’s your position at Short Game Artists Golf Academy?

I recently moved from Colorado with my family back to the Bay Area, where I grew up. As Director of Instruction, I’m responsible for all of the learning. I’m teaching both classes and private instruction in the full swing, chipping and pitching (we call it finesse wedge), putting, bunkers, the mental game, course management. I also run all our Player Development Programs for juniors, high schoolers and college players who want to become more competitive. At Short Game Artists Golf Academy – as the name implies – we also pay a lot of attention to the short game. Amateur golfers don’t spend enough time on and around the green. This is where the real scoring happens, and where the most fun is. When I see a student finally get a shot that they’ve been working on for weeks, it’s such an amazing feeling. Knowing that I had a part in getting them there is what keeps me going.

Alexandra is available for instruction at

By Director of Curriculum, Mark Diamond

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