By MARINA WATERS
If you had told recent Daniel Boone High School graduate Baylor Padgett years ago that she’d be heading to Emory & Henry to play golf, she might not have believed you.
“When I first started golf, I was not to the point where I thought I could play in college. I kind of just wrote it off and I didn’t think about it,” Padgett said. “But I started getting private lessons and working at it and I fell in love with it. When I finally got contacted by Emory & Henry. I was like, ‘Well I didn’t think I was good enough to play for anybody, but I’d love to.’ That’s when I guess I started thinking about it.”
Now, Padgett has signed to continue her academic and athletic career at Emory & Henry. But for the Boone Trailblazer, golf was more than just a ticket to college and playing at the next level; it’s also served as a place where real life problems can be left behind the moment she steps foot on the green.
“Golf was a big rescue for me,” Padgett said. “One of the things I do enjoy about golf is the numbers don’t lie. You can’t pick favorites. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or what kind of clubs you have, who your friends are or anything like that. It’s you and your hard work.”
Overcoming obstacles and working hard are two things that are far from foreign for the recent high school graduate.
Padgett said that up until age 13, she experienced abuse, living with birth parents who were both addicted to drugs and alcohol. The golfer said she was also homeless and battled bullying throughout school. But when she was 13, she was given the chance at a new life when she was adopted by her new family.
“It played a really big part in if something was tough or something was going on and I wasn’t working through it at practices or if I was having problems,” Padgett said. “I wouldn’t wanna quit because I had gone through so much growing up. So I kind of reflected that back on golf.”
As a way to never take an opportunity for granted, Padgett said she is dedicated to working hard and giving everything — on and off the golf course — her best shot.
“I’m super grateful for all that I have,” Padgett said. “I put in a lot of work into everything because not everyone gets the opportunities that I’ve gotten, so I want to do my best at everything I’ve been able to do. When someone gives you an opportunity, you don’t waste it. You’ve got to kind of make the most of it.”
Working hard isn’t the only thing Padgett strives to do, especially as she heads to Emory, Virginia to pursue a major in psychology and a minor in civic innovation to achieve her goal of becoming a social worker.
Padgett has been accepted as a Bonner Scholar, a program that offers four-year community service scholarships to 1,500 students each year. As part of the program, Bonner Scholars log volunteer hours within the community. For Padgett, that means she’ll get the chance to be placed with a social work agency where she will gain hands-on experience in helping kids.
Mostly, she said, she wants to serve as an advocate, much like the one she had leading up to her own adoption.
“What I really want to do is help as many kids as possible who are going through my situation,” Padgett said, “because I know when I was going through what I was, my social worker, when she actually placed me with my family and she came and talked to me, it was great. I loved having someone that I knew was there for me and was kind of biased and pulled out of the situation and would tell me honestly what she thought was going on and how things were going to work. I want to be that kind of person for someone else.”
Overall, Padgett said she will head to Emory with more than just a desire to help others; along the way, she said she’s also gained a plethora of life lessons that she will carry with her wherever she goes.
“You don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives. You always just have to be nice to people, you have to always try to be kind and do to others what you would want them to do to you, “ Padgett said. “I think another thing for me is that I’m really super grateful for everything that I have. Six years ago if you would have told me I’d be driving my own car and going to college and having everything paid for, I would have basically called you crazy.”
In looking back, Padgett said she knew the exact advice she would have given herself during her childhood hardships — and it’s the same advice she said she’d give to any one else in the same spot she was in.
“Don’t ever give up on yourself. Other people may have. I know my biological parents did. I know a lot of teachers or my friends, they didn’t think I was going anywhere. But it’s not what their opinion is, it’s where you think you’re going to go or where your hard work is going to get you. So if you have a goal or have this dream that you want to achieve, it’s up to you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go for it because it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. It’s about what you think about yourself.”