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With a mouthful of braces and a yearning to get her driver’s license, Mariah Stackhouse comes across as the typical teenager.

Then she picks up a golf club.

That’s when she becomes the next black hope.

In a sport desperately lacking in African-Americans outside of Tiger Woods, Stackhouse certainly stands out. Having just turned 15, she’s already climbed as high as No. 29 in the American Junior Golf Association’s national female rankings and currently stands 33rd, making her the top-rated black player on either the girls or boys list.

“If I get an opportunity to play professional golf,” she said, “I’d definitely like to give that a try.”

Her rise to prominence provides a handy roadmap for African-Americans trying to reach the top levels of golf, but also reveals just how many obstacles there are along the way.

“It’s a big financial investment and a huge sacrifice,” said her father, Ken Stackhouse. “I’ve known (African-Americans) who played before us, and their concerns were always the same. They never really got all the support they needed financially. As a consequence, they were never able to rise to the level Mariah has. Fortunately, she had support early enough to make a difference.”

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