SPORTS HEADLINES

Golf: Staying on course – Bridgeport golfer takes life one shot at a time

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, May 13, 2017
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Standing on the tee box, Ashlie Lennard focuses only on making solid contact on the next shot and trying to keep the ball in the fairway.

There’s no time to think of the upcoming perilous approach shot or slippery putt. The hazards on the horizon also must be pushed aside.

BUSY LADY – Bridgeport’s Ashlie Lennard has managed to qualify for her second state golf tournament despite a daunting schedule. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“My coach says take it one shot at a time. The only shot that matters is the shot in front of you,” Lennard said. “You can put that to life, too. Whatever is going on, it doesn’t matter about the big picture. As long as you do what you need to do now, the big picture will all come together.”

For an 18-year-old Bridgeport senior balancing two jobs to support herself, pay rent and stay involved as a varsity cheerleader, trumpet player in the band and now two-time state golf qualifier, the approach has kept her on course.

“Ashlie has more personal responsibility than 95 percent of the girls her age,” said Bridgeport coach Alan Green, following the 4A Region II tournament. “She works two jobs that take away from her practice time. She’s such a big part of our team. For her to get to do this with us and be a big part of that is great to see.”

Lennard will tee off with the Bridgeport Sissies team Monday in the 4A tournament at the University Interscholastic League golf championships at Slick Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay in Marble Falls. For her, the opportunity is still hard to fathom.

“It’s kind of baffling,” Lennard said. “Who knew that you could go to state twice in a row and hopefully achieve and do better than last year. To get that chance to be your best, do your best and do what you know how to do is amazing.”

Lennard shot rounds of 108 and 110 at the 4A Region II tournament last month in Canton to finish 54th. Bridgeport advanced to state, finishing third as a team.

Lennard only took up playing golf four years ago, following in the footsteps of her brother. That was not her original intention.

“I actually didn’t want to play golf, but my parents were like, ‘Merry Christmas’ we got you golf clubs,'” Lennard said. “I was like ‘OK,’ and I took lessons.”

She quickly grew to love the sport and appreciate its challenges, along with the opportunities it presented.

“It’s a sport where you can’t get too into it,” Lennard said. “If you get too angry, it does not work. If you enjoy the sport and just pick your head up after every shot, even if it wasn’t what you wanted, then you’ll learn to love it.”

But along the course of life, there’s been more than a few hazards, especially in the past two years. Family issues led to Lennard being removed from her home. She moved in with the family of teammate Brooke Irion and then last August she moved out on her own, renting her own room. While attending high school, she also worked at The Club at Runaway Bay and Bridgeport Automotive to support herself.

Though holding the high level of responsibility, the senior refused to compromise and miss out on the activities she loved, including cheerleading and band.

“I do pay rent and stuff, so I have to work,” Lennard said. “Being in so many school activities and knowing I’m able to do that and do what I do, I find it amazing. It’s like when you do something, and you didn’t expect to be able to do it, it’s like you’ve reached that goal.

“Just because things happen in life, it doesn’t inhibit you from doing the things you love. I love cheer. I love band. I love golf. Everyone in those sports or activities are family. Quitting is a way of letting your family down.”

Before golf season started this year, Lennard and Green had a serious conversation about the upcoming season and if she could make it work with her schedule. The coach figured out the best way for her stay involved, including making arrangements to play on her own.

“Coach Green really worked with me,” Lennard said. “I’m so glad he talked me into playing again. I was really considering [not playing]. I don’t know if I have time for this. I have cheer, homework and work. Knowing Coach Green worked with all of us is amazing.”

For a sport that requires countless hours of work in the unattainable pursuit of perfection, Lennard’s time is extremely limited. She can’t fit the organized team practices in her schedule. She has to find time when she can to work on her game.

“When I work at The Club, I end up getting some range balls and going to hit before I go pick the range,” Lennard said. “I try to get out there as much as possible. I can’t get out there every day like those girls do and they work on it. But I do my best.

“On Sundays, I’ll meet Coach Green, and we’ll go play one or two rounds together or anything really. Every shot counts. That’s the big thing. You can’t be, ‘Oh well, I have another shot.’ I only have so much time in the day to do something – every shot does count. Even when we are practicing.”

Her desire to play and help her teammates has won their admiration, including Irion’s. The two have been close friends since middle school.

“She is incredible,” Irion said. “We’re like sisters.”

Green points out that Lennard’s spirit lifts the entire team.

“She always brightens a room,” he said. “She’s a good backseat driver on trips. It’s fun to have her on the team. There’s always a lot of laughing.”

In the midst of difficult rounds on the course, Lennard has found parallels to life. She also points out the character golf has helped instill in her that’s allowed her to persevere.

“It’s taught me responsibility, definitely,” Lennard said. “Being responsible to go to practice and do those things you do over and over again. Then getting what you need done. And honesty, you can’t lie about your score or someone will call you out for sure. But also just being honest in life also and trustworthy.”

When she tees up at state, she knows her background will likely differ greatly from the her playing partners. But it’s a difference she appreciates.

“I just enjoy meeting new people,” Lennard said.

She does not have extra money to buy the latest equipment. She said she was fortunate to get her clubs as a gift. She also uses a pair of clubs that were Irion’s from when she was younger.

While fending for herself, she also points out the generosity of others to reach out and offer her help.

“Even though you feel like you’re alone, the whole community is there for you,” she said. “Even when you’re looking out and thinking, I’m all alone for this, you’re really not. Anyone that can help you will help you. Even if they can’t, they will try to do something.”

With graduation approaching, Lennard is looking forward to the next chapter in life. She will attend Texas Woman’s University in Denton to study dental hygiene.

But those long-range plans are only attainable through her same simple approach, one day or as in golf, one shot at a time. And making the best of the present situation and not worrying about the total score produces the best outcome.

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