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Ashley Knoll
By Anne Marie Goslak

It had to be one of the shortest drives I had ever seen in my life. The ball rolled no more than 20 yards, barely avoiding the bunker in front of the ladies tee box on Hole #1 at Oak Valley Golf Club. When her brother let out a snorting laugh, Ashley responded like any other 11 year old would. “Shut up, Ryan!”

It was 1996. I was teaching the brother and sister duo of Ashley and Ryan Knoll. If you lived in the Oak Valley community in the mid-1990s, you might remember them. Ryan was a kind hearted, sweet kid with a smooth swing. Ashley was a competitive, talented force of nature. Even at a young age, her intensity intimidated anyone who stood between her and victory.

Standing over her ball after that less than perfect drive, Ashley looked in the direction of her brother and said, “I'm still going to par it. Watch me knock it near the green, chip it up and tap it in!”

Just a few days prior, we'd had a lesson about staying in 'the future positive state.' That meant, if they hit a bad shot, rather than focusing on what went wrong, I wanted them to stay focused on what could happen next. “See it, say it, do it!” Never before had I seen a young lady latch onto the concept so quickly.

Sure enough, after visualizing and then stating exactly what she was going to do, Ashley hit a 5 wood to the bottom of the hill, pitched a shot within two feet of the hole, and tapped it in for an easy par. That very moment, I knew there was something special about Ashley.

Although she moved from Oak Valley to Texas in her teenage years, I still watched Ashley's progress with great pride. She was a three-time AJGA Polo Junior All-American, and won the Texas 5A High School State Championship three years in a row. In college, Ashley accumulated six tournament wins, was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year at Texas A&M in 2006-2007. Ashley played professionally, not only qualifying for the US Open, but making the cut, twice!

After chronic tendonitis sidelined her ability to play competitively, Ashley still wanted to have a career in golf. Recently, she reached out to me with questions about how to become a teaching pro. Our relationship is no longer a one way street of Teacher-Student. It is now peer to peer. I give her advice on issues related to teaching. She helps me with the latest technology, and how to use my Smart Phone.

Ashley looks back at her days at Oak Valley with positive nostalgia. She said, “Growing up at Oak Valley was great! The course had a perfect blend of some easier holes and then others that were more challenging. With all the support I received from the members and staff, it felt like family. I learned to compete while playing with the members on the weekends. I still remember my dad saying when he, Ryan and I played on weekends at Oak Valley with other members that he 'was always the last Knoll to be picked for any team'. The life lessons and solid fundamentals I learned from you helped me so much in my college and professional career as well.”

I had to say the feeling was mutual. The lessons I learned from working with Ashley served me well when I taught every elite junior after that.

The other day, she called and said, “You'll never guess what I found.” From an old, tattered index card, Ashley read the positive affirmations/ mantras that I had written for her so many years ago. I was touched that she had kept it, that it had meant something to her.

As so often is the case, things have come full circle now. Ashley is becoming a talented teacher in her own right. Her best student is a 13-year-old little girl named Ella. Proudly, Ashley told me that Ella made it to the final Drive Chip and Putt qualifier, and aspires to play golf in college. I smiled because I know the pride a teacher feels when one of 'their kids' does well. I can still see an 11-year-old Ashley, tapping in a par on Hole #1 at Oak Valley. The pride never goes away. It just gets passed down to the next generation of champions.

-Anne Marie Goslak