In the latest issue of The Teeing Ground, the STPGA interviewed Ashley Watkins. Ashey grew up playing STPGA and now works for Topgolf as the Event Sales Consultant.
Q: How did you get your start playing golf? How old were you?
A: I began playing golf at 6 years old. My dad introduced me to the sport by taking my sister and I out to Stephen F. Austin Country Club after school or on weekends.
Q: What does golf mean to you?
A: Golf is much more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle. It has taught me lessons that have been applicable both on the course and in my everyday life. Integrity, sportsmanship, honesty, focus, patience, and respect are just a few principles I learned at a very young age. After college, I continued to play recreationally, then became a teaching pro with a focus on juniors and women. Growing the game of golf is a passion of mine and I’m fortunate to work for a brand, Topgolf, that shares this mission.
Q: What was it like to play golf in college?
A: College golf was a great experience! The fact that I was able to play the sport I love while traveling the nation was a great opportunity. I’m very proud to say that I was a college athlete! It definitely is a full-time job and learning to juggle workouts, practice, and school was a great lesson in time management.
Q: What is your favorite golf course to play? Why?
A: I’ve played so many great courses over the years that it is really hard to pick just one! River Ridge Golf Club was a course I grew up playing and absolutely loved due to the diversity and beauty of the course. It recently closed down and I was heartbroken. As a junior and in college, I played so many amazing golf courses and never took a moment to just enjoy the course and beauty of where I was due to being in a competitive mode. I now have a bucket list of courses to return to and really appreciate the challenge and beauty.
Q: Who is in your dream foursome? Why?
A: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicholas, and Ricky Fowler! All of these men have transformed the game of golf and have been role models for growing the game in different respects. Plus, I would love to hear the stories that they could share!
Q: How has the STPGA impacted your life?
A: The STPGA was my first experience in competition. I’ll never forget my first tryout for Little Linksters, then getting moved up through the rankings. The first time I qualified to play 9 Holes Red, I was so proud to have achieved my first athletic goal that I had set for myself! This program is amazing for juniors and is definitely helping to grow the game.
Q: As a junior golfer, did you receive lessons from a PGA Professional? If yes, who and what was
the experience like?
A: My dad was my coach for most of my life. Although he is not a “pro” he was instrumental in the player that I became and continue to be. He was on the course with my sister and I, rain or shine, cold or sweltering Texas heat, teaching us etiquette, rules, swing tips, etc. I attribute the success I’ve had over my many years of playing this great game to his style of coaching. He taught us to be “feel” players. What I mean by that is I can feel when my swing is where it should be and definitely when I’m in the wrong position. Anytime I hit a bad shot, I typically will know what I did in my swing to produce that result, self-correct, and continue playing a great round. I was also lucky enough to have a few other coaches in my corner over the years! Bobby Browne, former Head Pro at Stephen F. Austin Country Club and Brent Blackburn, Head Pro at River Ridge Golf Club both took my sister and me under their wing throughout countless summer breaks. Also, my high school golf coach, Jerry Brantley, helped me through the trials of high school, college recruiting trips and stood by my side as a pillar of strength when I won the Texas 3A State Championship my senior year of high school.
Q: What was your favorite part about playing college golf? Why?
A: My favorite part about playing college golf was the travel! I had the ability to travel to so many great places and play so many great courses over my 4 years of college.
Q: What was the hardest part about playing college golf? Why?
A: The hardest part about playing college golf was being injured. Knowing that I couldn’t be at 110% for my team was mentally and emotionally more straining than my physical injury. I have always tried to find the positive in a situation and the trials and tribulations that came with my injury definitely strengthened my faith and taught me patient to bein God’s plan.
Q: What advice would you give junior golfers?
A: Golf is one of the greatest sports you can ever play. It is a game that will lead you to experiences you otherwise would have never had including meeting new people and learning new life lessons. Golf requires patience and will be one of the toughest sports you will ever play. Golf is the most mentally challenging sport where the ball is sitting still. You can lose a tournament or match by getting ahead of yourself or losing focus, not because of your competitor. You always want to have a goal that you are pursuing, whether that be winning a tournament, shooting a low score, beating an opponent, etc., but the hardest part of golf is focusing on the shot you have in front of you and not concerning yourself with the next shot, next hole or next day of competition. You will never master this game but you can have a lifetime worth of trying! Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect!