Just recently, Ashley Olsen became the first Pitman High female graduate to lock a college scholarship in golf.
When she first picked up a golf club as a high school freshman, the thought of playing past graduation was unimaginable.
Golf became a part of Olsen's life, however, after Pitman girls golf coach Ken Stangl noticed her natural athletic abilities in his P.E. class and asked her to try out for his team. She said yes, not knowing that she'd eventually fall in love with the sport and achieve a feat no other female golfer had done in Pitman's short athletic history, as she recently signed with Colorado Christian University — a Division II program in Lakewood — after playing two years at Modesto Junior College.
“I think the first three years of golf at Pitman High were just learning the technique of my swing and understanding the sport,” she said, “but my love for golf developed my senior year. This was the season when I started to play well enough that I knew I could beat other girls in my league.”
She took the initiative to get better. Before her senior season, she took a summer job at a golf course, enabling her to get help with her stroke. She even got a swing coach in Curtis Matsuno, whose teachings led to her shooting an average stroke of 43 per nine holes.
It was common for her to card scores of 46s, 45s, 44s and 43s.
“I just knew I loved golf because it became my life and I couldn't get enough of it,” she said.
And the coach who initially introduced her to the sport, is not surprised by her success that continued at MJC, where she placed 11th out of 30 girls in the Big 8 Conference and qualified for the Northern California Championships.
Besides her athleticism, Stangl noticed her “great attitude.”
“Her athletic ability and determination took over,” Stangl said. “She worked hard and she was very coachable. She spent endless hours on her own practicing and developing her game. By the time she was a senior, she was one of the top players in the Central California Conference.”
Olsen had other choices than Colorado Christian University. There was Sacramento State, but she only got accepted for her academics, and not also for her abilities on the golf course. Simpson University was another option, but she said “I felt like that was not where I was meant to be.”
Colorado Christian University was an ideal choice because of a number of factors, including her faith and the atmosphere of the school.
And it was a no-brainer for someone who had never picked up a golf club just a few short years ago.
“If someone told me freshman year that I would be getting a scholarship to play for a NCAA Division II school,” she said, “I would have never believed it.”
But she has convinced herself otherwise.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.