From the time she first picked up a golf club around the age of four, a New England Patriots visor became synonymous with Alexa Pano while she was out on the course.
A Titleist sponsorship changed that for arguably the most accomplished junior golfer ever, who recently made the decision to forgo college and turn professional at age 17. But before competing in her first major on the LPGA Tour, she wanted to bring the Patriots logo to a new level of prominence.
It was only right that she feature it on the customized bag she's carrying in the 2022 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. starting Thursday.
"It's really special to have it on there because I just love the organization so much," Pano said. "I've loved growing up (a fan). I have so many memories with my grandparents and my dad getting to watch games. Even down to my golf superstitions, and every Sunday it was a big deal setting up the party to go watch the Patriots."
Pano was born in Westborough, Mass. but grew up with her father, Rick, in Lake Worth Beach, Fla.
It was through her father that she developed a love for Boston sports teams and golf, though the latter was only intensified growing up surrounded by the game and not far from pros Brooks and Chase Koepka.
"It's kind of crazy how much time I end up spending with my dad," Pano said, after mentioning her father will serve his typical role as her caddy during the major. It's only right, as he's been there every step of the way.
That journey, thus far, has included five U.S. Kids Golf World Championships (tied for the most of all time). Pano was the first three-time national finalist in the Drive, Chip & Putt competition at the Masters, played in her first LPGA event at 13, has represented the United States at the Junior Ryder Cup, and at seven years old, was featured in a Netflix Documentary The Short Porch chronicling young golf prodigies.
None of that comes without sacrifice. By the end of middle school, Pano already was taking some virtual classes but wanted to be homeschooled full-time to focus on more her game.
"It was definitely a big choice in my life, and I feel like that definitely solidified that this was more than just a hobby -- although it never really was for me," Pano said. "But that kind of solidified that this was what I wanted to be doing."
Her drive comes from within, but Pano been encouraged and matched by her father's support.
"I think my dad says it best. He puts all the effort into me because he just wants to see how good I can get it," Pano said. "I am kind of coming from the same place. Winning is obviously my favorite thing in this world and going out to practice every day and putting in all this time, that's always the goal and that's what motivates me."
It's a mentality shared by her favorite NFL team.
Growing up with a family from the Boston area, she heard stories about her father watching games at the old Foxboro Stadium, with Rick and Pano's paternal grandparents being season ticket holders for over 35 years.
In almost every recent picture of her playing, a Patriots ball marker can be seen fastened to her hat. Her bag holds a Vokey Design 58 degree wedge with the words "YOU GOT MOSSED" engraved on it – a reference to legendary receiver Randy Moss.
Pano didn't have much choice but to root for the Patriots, but born a few years into the dynasty in 2004, she was fine with that.
"If we're not on the course on a Sunday, we're watching the Patriots," Pano said of her favorite time to bond with her dad off-the-course.
Practicing for her first season as a pro, that downtime is less frequent.
With the exceptional career she had as an amateur, she feels a responsibility to grow the game for the young girls who come after her. In order to do that, she must sustain that excellence against the best competition in the world.
Pano welcomes that challenge, realizing it's a testament to the hard work that got her here that so many expect so much of her. She also takes inspiration from the Patriots in her desire to stay on top as long as she can.
That starts Thursday at the first round of the U.S. Women's Open, complete with her new navy bag.
"It's definitely something in my career I would like to be able to do, stay at the top," Pano said.
"That's kind of the goal, to be that dominant for that long."