Demi Bagby threw one of the greatest first pitches in history. She ran onto the field in 2021 at a San Diego Padres game, did a backflip, landed in a split and threw the ball from that split position. The video went viral. If you’ve heard of her, it’s probably because of that pitch. Or maybe you’re one of the 2.6-million Instagram followers on her fitness-centric account. The list of Bagby’s athletic endeavors is long: bodybuilding, soccer, CrossFit, parkour, surfing, skateboarding, cheerleading, boxing, martial arts. Now you can add golf to the list.
Bagby, 21, never thought she would be a golfer. Her propensity for adrenaline-fueled sports made her think golf wouldn’t fit her lifestyle. But she does know how to slow down. She has had to do it before. When she was 13, a cheerleading trick went wrong. Bagby was thrown into the air and dropped, fracturing her spine. Doctors told Bagby she would not be able to do anything physical; her ability to move would be permanently limited by the injury.
“I pretty much gave everyone the middle finger and was like, ‘We’re going to figure this out,’ ” she says. “I promised myself I’d never complain about anything again—ever. It made me who I am. People ask why I’m so happy all the time. I decided to move forward and never make an excuse or be a victim again or sit here and cry and watch myself become the worst version of me.”
After a year of recovery, she was ready to get back into motion. She saw a CrossFit gym and was intrigued. In just over a year, she was ranked No. 23 in the world in her age group. She started documenting her fitness journey.
Demi is the youngest of five kids in a family that lives in San Diego where the weather and terrain are perfect for being outside all day, every day. Her older brother Devon says the family’s athleticism stems from their dad. He’s one of those natural athletes who can find his way in most sports.
“Before influencers were a thing, before people were getting paid on Instagram, she was posting these videos,” Devon says. “She had no followers. We gave her grief, like, ‘Why are you taking videos of yourself all day?’ But she knew what was coming. She took off.”
As her Instagram presence grew, Demi Bagby realized she needed help navigating partnerships with companies. She hired Jeran Fraser as her manager. Bagby met Fraser when she rented space in an incubator office he owned. Though not a manager by trade, he has helped her with contracts and optimizing her business. Now she has a huge Instagram following, she’s an investor in various startups and she has a fitness app. Fraser was the one who invited Bagby to play golf for the first time.
“I was always that person who thought, That looks so boring,” Bagby says. “But I had a blast. You can make it as challenging as you want.”
Like many of the new female golfers who picked up the game during the pandemic, Bagby is hooked. “I love the mental aspect. It carries over to other sports, without being as physically taxing,” Bagby says.
That first round she played was a scramble at Monarch Bay Golf Club near San Francisco. Bagby even had a few moments of brilliance. Fraser remembers one hole where she ripped a drive easily over 200 yards and knocked her approach to five feet. “It was one of those things where I was like, ‘How did you just pull that off?’ ” Fraser says.
“I’d never touched a club before, but I was down,” Bagby says. She had no gear, so she went to a sporting-goods store before the event. “I went and played the 18-hole scramble with a driver that was for an 8-year-old. It was the closest thing I could find that fit me height-wise at the store. I used it all day.”
Bagby is just under 5 feet tall, so using Fraser’s clubs was out of the question. She had to choke down so far that the butt end of the club hit her stomach. Consequently, she hit every shot with her driver. Now that Bagby has gotten more into the game, she has been fitted for a set of Cobra irons and woods. She also needed some golf clothes. “The golf outfits are fun,” she says. “There’s a lot less out there for the females, but they’re starting to pop off a bit more. I’m used to more formfitting clothes, and the golf clothes are looser. I’m used to technical apparel, where even the T-shirts are tight. Golf clothes are more flowy.”
Though Bagby thinks the golf outfits are cute, they have a drawback that she discovered when she started to practice more. “If you’re filming video, you can see your body mechanics a lot better when you’re wearing something tighter,” Bagby says. “That’s why I like going to the range in leggings and a sports bra. I can see what part of my body is moving and what’s engaged. So much of the golf swing is about the hips, and with a skirt flowing around, I can’t see what my hips are doing. I go to the range and whack as many balls as I can and then go back and watch the video to see if I got better. It’s what I do for other sports.”
Her jiujitsu class ends at 8 p.m., so she goes to a range nearby that stays open until 9:30. “As a beginner, I feel like contact is more important than anything,” Bagby says.
To figure out what to work on, she has enlisted the help of instructor Joey Aliano and watches swing videos of tour professionals. She knows watching a swing like Dustin Johnson’s isn’t relevant to her; their bodies are too different.
Bagby admires female long-drive champion Troy Mullins. “She looks so fun. I’ve been watching her stuff because her legs are similar to mine,” Bagby says. “I watch how her legs move during the swing and try to do the same. She’s taller than me, but we have similar bodies, so it makes sense to watch how she moves when she swings.” Watching Mullins has seemingly helped Bagby: At a recent scramble, Bagby clocked a 250-yard drive.
The key thing she’s working on in her swing right now is using her arms less. Her other sports rely heavily on her upper body, so using more legs and hips is new to her. She’s also learning to not muscle her way through the swing. “In [mixed martial arts], it’s about hitting harder. In golf, I have to slow down a little bit,” Bagby says. “I can’t just grab this thing and rip it. It’s more technique, more finesse, a lot more graceful.”
Bagby has continued playing in scrambles, though she’s typically one of just a few women. “I would love to meet more females in this space,” Bagby says. “I started following some girls who golf on Instagram. We need a powersquad of chicas who golf. Every time I meet a new girl, I’m like, ‘Do you golf?’”
While she works on assembling her powersquad, Bagby plays with her manager and her golf-obsessed brother Devon. Bagby’s family is close, touching base with each other daily. Golf has added another layer of connection. Bagby says her style of golf is a relaxed experience. The guys are drinking some beers, Bagby has music playing, and she’s dancing around in between shots. “She’s a ball of energy out there,” Devon says. But don’t let the fun fool you. Bagby is serious about golf. She wants to get good enough to graduate from the scramble circuit and play her own ball in a women’s tournament.
Two crucial things happened to get her to this point: Someone invited her, and she decided to not be intimidated. “The best piece of advice I got was, ‘Don’t get intimidated.’ You’re in a new environment, people are clearly in this club where they know exactly what they’re doing, and you’re just showing up like, Uh, I don’t know what’s going on. But you just have to enjoy it,” Bagby says. “If you have fun and are learning, you’ll get addicted to it, too.”