Golfing Motivation

The Hawkins sisters are going from strength to strength in their golfing and academic careers

Sterling Hawkins (3)

Sterling Hawkins. Photo courtesy of ART U Athletics.

Elan Hawkins

Elan Hawkins. Photo courtesy of ART U Athletics.

When Elan and Sterling Hawkins were in high school, they had to play on the men’s golf team because Willow Glen High didn’t have a women’s team. Despite some backlash from subscribers of the old school, “No girls allowed” mantra, the Hawkins sisters thrived playing in the boys’ club—after all, what could the boys do that they couldn’t?

“People were not very happy and we couldn’t do much about it,” says Sterling, a member of the ART U women’s golf team and a student in the School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) at the Academy of Art University. “I started beating a lot of the men’s golf players … I just enjoyed their competition.” 

Since leaving San Jose for foggy San Francisco, both sisters continued to pile on the accolades. 

Sterling, who is two years older, topped her 2017 season by being named the PacWest Women’s Golfer of the Year following a career-best of two titles and finishing top 10 in all but one, ranking her at No. 5 in the region and 40th in the nation. 

Elan, a first-year School of Industrial Design (IND) student, placed in the top 10 in her first collegiate showing at the Art of Golf Classic and tied for ninth in the PacWest Championship with her sister. In the recent fall tournament season, Elan finished in the top 10 at the California Bays Invitational and Western Washington Fall Invitational.

Sterling Hawkins (4)

Sterling Hawkins. Photo courtesy of ART U Athletics.

“It’s different but also very similar,” Elan mentioned of her transition from high school to collegiate sports. “The competition [feels] the same and I’ve always played individually even though I’m on a team; I’m always looking for what I can do. If our team doesn’t play well, but individually, I play well, then I look at how can I make my teammates better.”

Elaine Harris, head coach of the women’s golf team, praises the girls’ team-oriented mindset. The two follow Harris’ mantra of “every shot counts,” where although golf is played individually, Harris explained, it’s a reminder that team members are playing for each other. 

“The internal competition amongst the team makes it fun, but it’s also motivation to practice and that everyone has to do their part,” she emphasized. 

“Being on a team with each other is a normal experience for us,” Sterling said. “It’s been embedded in our lives.”

They want to pursue golf professionally, but outside of the sport, Sterling and Elan couldn’t be more different. Before they started college, Sterling and Elan did everything together: Golf, YMCA summer camps, basketball leagues, etc. Competing together is nothing new; now that they’re at the Academy under different majors, being able to pursue fresh endeavors separately is.

Sterling started her Academy career as a music production and sound design major but transitioned to COM. The broader range of disciplines and skills (broadcast, multimedia, production, etc.) appealed to her, and she said that she wants to pursue editing: “It’s a whole bunch of things to learn, and I felt that was better for me in figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.”

Elan chose a different path: “I was drawn to [IND] because I can use all my skills for it.”

In high school, Elan learned Photoshop and Illustrator; one of her art pieces was used for a mural in downtown San Jose. When she saw student work on the IND website, she thought, “It was like they were inventors.” She appreciates the marriage of the creative and technical aspects, in addition to the level of thought that has to go into each product design: “You really have to sit down and think about it.”

Elan Hawkins (2)

Elan Hawkins. Photo courtesy of ART U Athletics.

Both Hawkins sisters are widely talented on the golf course, but Harris noted that when academic life is going well, so is life on the green. 

“Elan is very motivated by school,” Harris said. On the contrary, Sterling is driven by golf (Harris remembered in Sterling’s junior year when she started reading golf mental books: “She took her game in her own hands, she took ownership of it,”) but Harris believes Sterling appears to have found her niche with COM. Being able to tap into and focus on school has allowed the siblings to thrive in their golfing lives.

Sterling and Elan have come a long way since being known as the girls on their high school’s boys golf team. Each sister came to the Academy with different goals and aspirations, but what they learned together as teammates stays the same.

“It’s nice to be able to prove people wrong,” said Sterling. “It doesn’t matter what your race or gender is at all, it just matters how much you practice and what you put into it.”