Paul Ashwell has been in GM’s Top 25 Coaches since it was formed. His son, Ben, describes how this came to influence his view of golf.
I was introduced to golf at a very young age. My Dad bought my sister and me a set of starter clubs and we used to go to the nearest pitch and putt as a family at the weekends. Being so young, golf failed to grip me.
That’s not to say that my Dad made me and my sister play golf; we were always excited on the way to the course but after two holes the idea of hitting a ball at a seemingly unreachable target didn’t interest us.
As I got older I inevitably found it easier to play. I began to appreciate the beauty of watching a ball soar through the air and land a few feet away from the hole. That was what I saw when I watched my Dad play. I wanted to know what it felt like to knock a 90-yard pitch onto the green.
It wasn’t until I entered my first club competition that I realised the expectation that surrounded me. Everyone at our home club knew my Dad and assumed that I would be some kind of child prodigy.
I remember feeling as if everyone on the practice greens and in the clubhouse had stopped what they were doing to watch me hit my tee shot. My arms felt as though they’d been hollowed out and filled with water.
I swung manically and topped the ball, which scuttled into the rough about 20 yards in front of the tee. My head fell and my golf suffered.
I continued to play competitively for most of my teens, waking up early on Saturday mornings to cram a whole day’s worth of golf in. During this time I was working towards one goal; being the lowest handicapped junior at my club.
Eventually something snapped inside and my golf clubs were left to gather dust under the stairs. I stopped talking to my Dad about what he used to play-off when he was my age. In the back of my mind I told myself that I’d probably start playing again when I was 40.
In real-life it didn’t take anywhere near that long for me to don my soft spikes and head out on to the course again. By the time I’d turned 20 I was playing again, albeit less frequently than before. But I was playing.
Whenever I play now I remember the cold, lonely trudges down flooded fairways. It reminds me not to take my game too seriously. We all have days when we can’t stay out of the rough but I don’t think the solution is always spending hours on the practice ground. For most of us golf is just a hobby after all.
When I watch my Dad play now I can see that golf is his lifelong passion. He refuses to let the game get to him when he has an off day. As a golfer I now feel liberated when I walk off the course because I’m not fretting about handicap cuts and competitions, I’m simply enjoying the game and the quality time that it allows me to spend with my friends.