Marina Alex: The Local At the Cognizant Founders Cup

Marina Alex grew up in the town of Wayne, New Jersey and played high school golf at Wayne Hills High School, about a 20-minute drive from Mountain Ridge Country Club, host site of last week’s Cognizant Founders Cup. 


During Alex’s time at Wayne Hills High School, there was no girls’ golf team. Even now it depends on the year if Hills will have a separate girls’ team. However, its rival, Wayne Valley, has a team that will be going into its fifth season this spring. During her time in Wayne, Alex played with the boys. She never really felt like she had anything extra to prove. She said, “It was more awkward for the guys to have to play with me because then they were like ‘oh my goodness I’m going to get beaten by a girl.’” 


Alex was never really expected to win and was most often the only girl out there. When she did win, she impressed many. She reached two boys’ state championships and a girls’ state championship during her four years on the team. 


Her father got her into the game at age 10, even though the first tournament she played in was when she was seven years old. She started at North Jersey Country Club among other local courses including the Passaic County course, Preakness Valley. She has always had a good relationship with her dad. She says that he “has always encouraged [her] to learn from other people,” and not to limit her potential or growth. The LPGA Tour was something her father “rooted” for as well. According to Alex, in junior golf, high school and even into college at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee where she won a Southeastern Conference Championship, “I was pushed, but I was really pushed in a good way.”


The courses she played in college were obviously very different and harder to get used to. She calls what was played last week at Mountain Ridge to be “quintessential northeast golf…lots of rough, lots of trees, large greens,” whereas down south, the grass and the conditions are different. Playing at Vanderbilt was the first time that Alex would play on a Women’s Golf team. She remembers how big a switch that was: “[Considering] I was always the one girl amongst a bunch of guys, I did not really know anything different.” 


Alex’s first LPGA Tour event was the Shoprite Classic back home in New Jersey. She posted a number that got her under the cutline and into the weekend. Her dad caddied that week and she made her first LPGA paycheck. It took her a year and a half on the Symetra Tour before gaining full LPGA Tour status in 2014. And she has played professionally ever since. Alex won her first tournament at the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic and looks to add more. 


Over her years on tour, Alex has learned the importance of focusing on the mental aspect of the game. Most players live out of suitcases for weeks going from one event to the next. That can wear you out. It can be hard to not negatively self-reflect when rounds are not meeting expectations. This is something that golfers at all levels struggle with. In order to win that mental battle, Alex focuses on “trying to navigate the lows…and to not get so down on myself when it’s not going great, because it’s not going to be great all the time.”


Last year after the LPGA started to come back after months of no events during the pandemic, Alex announced that she would have to take a break from tournament play to nurse a herniated disk in her lower back. She elected not to have surgery and just took the time she needed for it to heal. “It is just kind of an on-going process,” she said. “I feel pretty good. But I guess I will never really be what I was before I got hurt…It is very temperamental. Some days you feel pretty good. Other days, not so good.” But Alex reassures that “the golf itself will be okay,” and that it is more the struggles of everyday life on the road that trigger the pain. 


During the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, N.J., Alex was looking forward to having local support. Not many LPGA tournaments get played in the Garden State so, to her, “everything [else] kind of feels like an away game.” She loves the presence of fans and the energy they bring to events. Her family was also in attendance at Mountain Ridge. She is happy for them to be back after having nobody on the course or in the grandstands during the pandemic. 


Overall, Alex believes that for the LPGA as a whole “people enjoy watching us. I just don’t think we are seen enough on television, which is a problem.” But she added, “I think if we were to have this discussion in five years, it will be better than it is right now. I have faith [that it will be]. It’s trending in the right direction.”