The Big Dance

Ashley Chow

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Big tournaments and competitions are an excellent time to reflect. To look back at what one has accomplished and celebrate the journey right before another big moment approaches.

As I prepare for this weekend’s conference tournament, I can’t help but think about how I got here. Most girls who get to this level, playing collegiate golf with eyes on the pros, start at a very young age and keep working on their craft.

By the time college begins, they have well over ten years of experience on the golf course.

That’s not my story.

My journey begins in the ballroom.

The dancing years

As a child, I did ballet.

Dance was a huge part of my family history; with my Dad being a serious figure skater when he was younger, it was no surprise when I took on ballet and was dedicated to it at an early age.

With the life span of a dancer being so short, you kind of have to be.

There’s immediately a sense of urgency that you have to be good and train hard now because the clock is ticking. My family was supportive and understanding cause most of us were serious about athletics. It seemed like everyone was trying to go pro at something in my home. It created a competitive but supportive environment that I thrived in.

From that environment, I went on to attend a ballet company and take my talent to the next level.

Suddenly, I was an eighth-grader living a very serious life of training, dancing, and competition.

While I did enjoy many aspects of it, the further I got into the ballet world, the less I enjoyed it.

The competition was fierce, and with literally hundreds of girls fighting for your spot, it created competitiveness that soon felt a bit toxic, you know?

Felt more like rooting against one another than working individually for common goals. Also, the dieting and nutrition were intense. Weekly check-ins on what you’re eating and what you shouldn’t be eating didn’t feel great. I was a growing teenager, and that environment was causing me to have negative associations with certain foods and even my body.

I didn’t like that.

Luckily I’m pretty self-aware, and when I started making these observations, I was able to be honest with myself and make the best out of the situation.

When I needed release, time away from ballet, I’d take a cab to the golf course.

Hitting the green

When I was on the golf course, nothing else mattered. I just focused on my target and swung. It was a liberating feeling to just connect with my body and take on the challenges of the course. The more I played, the more I wanted to return. By the end of my first year at the ballet company, I was sure what to do.

My heart was telling me it was time to trade in my dancing shoes for a golf bag.

It was time to pursue new dreams and avenues.

Making a big decision like changing your athletic endeavors is tough; executing that transition is even tougher.

Suddenly, there are new things to focus on; finding the right coach, working on different mechanics, and getting the proper routine down to be as productive as possible.

One thing I always try to do is connect everything I do in life. It could be math homework or washing dishes. How do the two relate to each other?

How can I use what makes me good at one thing and apply it to something else? The connection between golf and dance was in the movement. Thanks to my years in ballet, I had great control of my body.

I was able to make the adjustments my coach would ask of me fairly quickly. This fast-tracked my growth and made me seem like “a natural” at this sport, but I was really just working hard and finding skills I already had and applying them to golf.

Luckily I'm pretty self-aware, and when I started making these observations, I was able to be honest with myself and make the best out of the situation. When I needed release, time away from ballet, I'd take a cab to the golf course.

Why SMU?

That hard work paid off come recruitment time as I had multiple offers.

When it came time to make a decision, I didn’t hesitate; it was SMU.

I picked them just as much as they chose me. It was the perfect place for me to grow academically, athletically, and professionally.

I’m proud of so much in my life.

The ballet, my grades, and transitioning from dance to golf, but getting accepted into SMU’s program has been the highlight of my career when I reflect on it all.

It was the culmination of all those things, of my journey so far.

I’m forever grateful for this opportunity and the journey I took to be a Mustang. I wake up each day pursuing my dreams and goals and ready to take on each challenge, and this weekend, that challenge is the conference tournament!

Time to dance

It’s so funny to me that they often call these tournaments the big dance. I’ve been doing big dances my whole life! This time I’m trying to focus on the mental aspect of the competition.

Golf is so mental; you’re done mentally if you’re not right.

You have to stay calm and relaxed if you want to have good form, putt well, and optimize your performance. That’s all I’m working on this weekend.

Just relax and play golf, and the results will take care of themselves. Do the work, and the work will take care of you, and I’m never one to shy away from some tough work or a good challenge.

I’ll get a little bit of both this weekend and I can’t wait!