Golf may be known as a quiet, solitary sport, but that doesn’t stop players like La Jolla Country Day School freshman Ashley Ding from bringing some fun to the course.
During the regular season, Ashley, who turns 15 this month, routinely shot under par, including three rounds in a row in which she shot 6 under. At her peak, she was ranked No. 2 in the Coastal League individual standings and No. 10 overall in San Diego County, according to her coach. She also competed in the CIF individual competition.
But her skill with a club isn’t necessarily what makes her stand out as a player.
“She brings a lot of enthusiasm to our team every day, makes her teammates smile and laugh on a regular basis and just plays the game whenever we practice or have a match,” said coach Robert Simon. “The biggest takeaway for me as her coach is the fact that she doesn’t define herself by her golf. She is such a kind and thoughtful young lady, both in her interactions with her teammates as well as with the girls from the other teams we play during the season. … This is what resonates with me the most. Golf will take care of itself; character is forever.”
Ashley started playing golf because her sister played, and “I really look up to her and I always wanted to be like her,” she said. “I tried it and it turned out I really enjoyed it.”
For the past four years, Ashley has focused on improving her game and playing in tournaments.
“I like it because I’m not really an athletic person and golf isn’t an extreme, active sport,” Ashley said. “Matches aren’t super stressful, especially if you are with friends. I’m not really stressed or nervous about my score the whole time.”
To keep things light, she plays games with her teammates, such as seeing who can chip the ball closest to the hole.
“It can be kind of boring by yourself or standing in the same place for hours,” she said. “I try to play games during practice because if it’s fun, practice goes better.”
But given that “everyone is different in their practice methods,” Ashley alters her playfulness depending on the crowd.
“I like to encourage my team. Many of them haven’t played before, so they can get frustrated,” she said. “Some people are brand-new to the team and others go in between golf and other sports, so they struggle a little bit. If they want help with their swing, I’ll help.”
When it’s just her on the course, “I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself,” Ashley said. “I tend to overthink things and then I get stressed and make silly mistakes. I try to calm down, especially if it’s the start of the round, when I’ll have so much ahead of me. I remind myself that this little mistake isn’t going to impact my life, and I can still make it up. I try not to stress too much.”
La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at email@example.com. ◆