124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2



Style

How LPGA Tour pro Albane Valenzuela uses golf to promote autism awareness and empower women on the course

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July 18, 2023

“Behind every athlete, there’s always a story,” says LPGA Tour pro Albane Valenzuela. “There’s a woman trying to live her best life.”

For Valenzuela, her story has taken her all over the world, from Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro where she represented Switzerland twice in the Olympics, to New York, Mexico, and France, places her family has close ties to.

Lately, when she’s not championing autism awareness—a cause close to her heart—or playing in majors, she’s test-driving clothing as part of her new role as an Athleta ambassador and “The Power of She Collective” member, which includes incredible athletes and women like gymnast Simone Biles, snowboarder Brenna Huckaby, and track-and-field Olympian Allyson Felix. In fact, the athletes even have their own group chat where they share book recommendations, health and wellness resources, and generally support and cheer each other on.

“It really feels like a family. It’s incredible to know you can reach out to other women who also compete at a very high level but also have aspirations beyond their sport,” said the 25-year-old, a successful college golfer at Stanford in her fourth season on the LPGA Tour after turning pro ahead of the 2020 season. “I think my performance on the course is part of me being happy with what I’m wearing, how I feel, and how comfortable I am as a woman. Athleta does an incredible job bringing out the feminine aspect of an athlete and at the same time, the athletic side.”

Athleta launched its re-designed collection of golf-specific apparel to the public earlier this summer, but Valenzuela has been sporting the new line of terracotta, lavender and navy skorts; sleeveless polos; and sweaters (the gently ribbed design being a particular favorite of hers) for a while now, both as a fan and product tester.

“One of the first things I loved about the brand, especially when I jumped in this year, is that they love having athlete input,” Valenzuela said. “There’s not a lot of brands that listen to women, how they feel when they perform, and really try to create a whole line for our lives.”

Valenzuela is a co-founder of a charity called Alexis For Autism, named for her younger brother and frequent caddie. The organization raise funds to support medical research and resources to support the needs of individuals with autism. Alexis, who overcame childhood challenges associated with autism, is currently a junior at SMU and a member of the Mustangs golf team. He was on the bag for his big sister at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

In 11 starts during the 2023 LPGA season, Valenzuela has three top-10 finishes, including a T-4 at The Chevron Championship. She also made headlines at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play when she won eliminated Lilia Vu, the top seed, during the second round.

Born in New York City to a French mother and Mexican father, Valenzuela became a Swiss citizen at the age of 14. She describes her style sense as “European,” effortless with a love for classic silhouettes in versatile shades of navy, black, and warm beiges. Now a Texas resident, Valenzuela loves pieces like the new sleeveless shirt that allow for fluid movement on the course and can be dressed up for all the other adventures the day calls for.

“You add jeans and sneakers and it’s great for city life,” she said. “It’s nice to have clothes that transition for all aspects of life. As golf becomes a more popular sport, it also becomes more trendy, more athletic, more fashionable. I think it represents more of the new women of the 21st century.”

Her advice for blossoming golfers of any age is to never be afraid; gather your friends, slip on your striped skorts or floral polos, whatever makes you feel beautiful and powerful, and just have fun.

“I always love when I go out on the golf course [and] see so many guys out there thinking, ‘Oh, she’s just a girl. She can’t hit it far.’ And you go on the practice range and you’re out there in your skirt and your feminine look and you can hit it further than them,” she said. “When you look good and you feel your athletic, powerful side, it makes the game even more fun. That’s always what I was told as a little girl growing up.”