Jan. 26, 2020
Jackie Mata, a senior communications major and second-year captain of the Biola women’s golf team, doesn’t let anything keep her from playing golf — including the disability in her left arm.
When Mata was born, a nerve in her neck was disconnected from her arm, limiting her left arm’s ability of turning over or straightening completely –– ultimately affecting the accurate swing that golf demands.
“In golf, when you turn to swing your arms back, your ultimate goal is to rotate over with your left arm, but my arm doesn’t do that,” said Mata.
Mata’s faith has played a vital role in overcoming her limited mobility. With a smile spread across her face she explains that God has given her the ability to play golf, despite her swing looking different from other players.
“I can do anything I put my mind to,” said Mata. “I’ve never let it stop me, I’ve never let it stop me from being involved ... never let it get in the way of anything. Having faith [in God] pushes me a lot more. I’m out there for Him and not just out there to play golf.”
Before Mata became a Christian, she found frustration in not being able to get her swing “normal.” Frustrations mounted when she couldn’t find a coach who understood the limitations in her arm. However, instead of giving up, she sought a relationship with God.
“When I found God, I noticed that I put less pressure on myself. I used to be really upset and frustrated that I have a disability in my arm and I would blame my mom and the doctors for it. It was something that I had let get in the way of me overcoming my disability,” said Mata.
Once Mata began accepting her disability, she was able to accept herself, but she did not accept limitations to her swing, persevering to perfect her game.
“I learned that I need to handle things differently. A lot of my struggles weren't with training or practice rather they were all in my head,” Mata said.
Over the past three years Mata has worked with Biola women’s golf coach Jane Carr on her mental game which has resulted in overall improvement.
“I know that she physically can't get in the same position in the back swing that most golfers can, but she has learned to play with her swing and play well. She has made her disability a non issue,” said Carr. “She works longer and harder than anyone out there and it shows.”
Mata’s favorite memory of her time at Biola is not all of her achievements of playing well or hitting good shots, but rather memories with her team. According to Mata, there are quite a few memorable stories of the team seeking enjoyment and fellowship in every moment they spend together.
In fact, the encouraging community of the university and the golf team was what initially drew Mata, a transfer student from California State San Marcos, to Biola.
“We’ve always been close-knit and team-oriented, and we really have fun,” said Mata.
Mata finds importance in offering inspiration and support to the other players. She aspires to not only be the team captain, but to be a friend and pray for the fellow players as they endure their journey on the course and with God.
“Having God in my life has helped me communicate with other players about my faith,” said Mata. “We have so many stories of us girls on the team talking to other girls [at other universities] and they’ve given their lives to Christ because of conversations they’ve had with us. So I feel like that’s definitely helped spread the Gospel — it’s allowed me to grow.”
Though this will be Mata’s last semester as a player and as the team captain, she hopes to become an assistant coach until her graduation in December. Continuing to assist the team is important to Mata because of the significant impact Biola’s golf team has made in her life.
“Her enthusiastic spirit and ability to connect with everyone in a genuine way really sets her apart. She knows what it is to be a good teammate and leader,” said Carr.
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