Multitalented on the greens: The inimitable style of Troy Mullins
Troy Mullins refers to her world record as her “little badge of honour.” Little because her world record is a small milestone in what she aims to accomplish in the golf space. In 2017, at the World Long Drive Mile High Showdown, she hit the ball 402 yards (almost 368 meters) – further than any woman ever before. She went on to win the event, becoming one of America’s top female long drivers.
Troy Mullins is a good sport. After all, what fascinates her about golf is the potential to keep improving all the time. This is arguably one of the character traits that makes the native Angeleno one of the most exciting golfers of her generation.
With her big mane of curls, infectious laugh and air of self-confidence paired with a uniquely colourful style, Troy Mullins stands out on golf courses around the globe. In long-drive competitions, where the aim is to hit the ball further than anyone else, she has long since made a name for herself – even grabbing her idol Tiger Woods’ attention.
She remembers attending one of Woods’ charity events as a guest in 2018. He came by a hole where she was playing with three other golfers and threw down the long-drive gauntlet. “Inside, I was bursting with excitement that he was standing right there next to me”, she says. Woods put on his glove and hit the ball for her group. But instead of waiting for Troy to have her go at besting his drive, the grinning Woods hotfooted it out of there. To this day, she says: “Nothing beats meeting Tiger Woods.”
A flair for all things athletic
For most of her life, however, she seemed to be on a very different path than one marked by world records and teeing off with Tiger Woods. As a child, Mullins excelled at a variety of sports, training in swimming, volleyball, tennis and athletics. It was at one of the many sports camps her mother sent her to that she also first tried her hand at golf. “Back then, I already loved hitting the ball,” she recalls. “But I hated being in the sun, I hated endlessly traipsing around and being the only girl. There was no way I was ever going to become a golfer”, she recalls.
Instead, she followed in the footsteps of her father, who was a track athlete and also held a world record. Troy wasn’t short on talent in that department, either. At the age of eight, she was already competing against teenagers. During her senior year at high school, she transitioned from sprinter to heptathlete, contesting an event that combines seven track and field disciplines. Troy competed for two years at Cornell University where she majored in China and Asia-Pacific studies together with international relations. As someone always looking for the next challenge, she learned to speak Mandarin fluently.
A chance visit to a driving range in Los Angeles was all it took to spark a new passion. “I was instantly hooked on hitting the ball,” she says. It came as an epiphany – she wanted to become a pro golfer and she didn’t intend to waste any time getting there. “My family didn't quite understand my impromptu and lofty goals.” Nevertheless, Troy’s plan worked. “Three years after I hit my first ball, I was competing in amateur tournaments,” she says. She came in second place at her first long drive event. “Despite her early success, she says, “I’m still figuring out how to be a golf professional.”
“You have to believe in yourself and go all out to realise your dreams”
The Trojan Goddess on the golf course
Nicknamed the “Trojan Goddess,” Troy Mullins now travels the world for golf events and has about 250,000 followers across her social media is a very different person from two years ago. Back then, she found the traditional look in her sport stifling. Not only was she often the only Black woman on the golf course, but her athletic physique and her colourful outfits were often considered overly distracting for other players. Troy was hurt by such remarks and tried to stifle who she was to fit in, trading in her brightly coloured skirt for black pants. “Until I realized I was wasting time trying to be someone I’m not.” She believes the reality is that there are a vast number of women like her who are also keen to play golf and who she hopes to represent. “I think I should be the norm rather than the exception,” she says.
Troy hopes the game of golf will become more and more diverse as time goes on. She aims to personally make a difference by tapping into a completely different interest of hers: fashion. “Looking ahead, I want to design a fashion line for women that flatters all shapes and sizes of figures,” she says. “Looks that are feminine, colourful and different.” Continuing to grow, learn and improve is, after all, what the 34-year-old likes most about golf. “I love a challenge,” says Troy, explaining “At any level, there’s always something to work on whenever you pick up a club. Under constantly changing conditions, I approach the game each day with an open mind - as if I were a beginner.”
It is this ambition, this unwavering pursuit of progress that drives her day in, day out. And Mullins has a very clear goal – golf’s biggest tournament series, the LPGA Tour, as a champion with her own place in the Hall of Fame. “To be successful, you need real attitude,” she says. “For me, that means going beyond what people see in you. You have to believe in yourself and go all out to realise your dreams.”