2006: Knoll finds her swagger with Aggies
It’s sometimes possible to be so focused on a goal, you miss the obvious.
Ashley Knoll practically stuck her foot in the Curtis Cup while paired with Carol Semple Thompson last month during the opening round of the South Atlantic Amateur in Ormond Beach, Fla. The Texas A&M junior told Thompson how much she wanted to be a part of this year’s U.S. squad, then asked the venerable amateur – a 12-time Curtis Cup participant – if she knew anything about how to get selected for the event.
“She said, ‘Yeah, I’m the captain,’ ” said A&M coach Jeanne Sutherland, who got a call from a red-faced Knoll after the round.
Fortunately for Knoll, her game spoke volumes that day as she shot 5-under 67 at Oceanside Country Club and went on to finish second.
It has been a long road back for Knoll, a standout junior known for her ballstriking who went to college and somehow lost her swagger.
Knoll began her career at Oklahoma State in 2003 and finished her first semester with a more-than-respectable 74.9 stroke average. As her outlook in Stillwater turned sour, her scoring average did, too. She closed her freshman season with a 76.82 average, packed her bags and moved to College Station, Texas.
“When she came to me, she was very concerned about her poor results,” said Sutherland. “If someone loses something, it’s far more detrimental than if you never had it at all.”
Sutherland, who spent years recruiting The Woodlands, Texas, native, noticed immediately that Knoll was missing her trademark look of single-minded intensity when she arrived at A&M.
“I just kind of felt like my swing got out of control,” said Knoll, who closed her second year with a 77.84 average. “I was always a really good ballstriker and never really taught myself to have a good short game.”
Sutherland set out to infuse creativity and diversity into Knoll’s chipping game. The pair often engage in short-game contests involving impossible lies and no shortage of smack-talk.
Last summer Knoll switched teaching instructors (to Alan Hodde) and spent five hours per day shortening her swing and finding neutral positions. Slowly, the shy, slender 20-year-old started seeing results.
She won the 2005 Texas State Women’s Amateur and finished second in stroke play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur before bowing out in the second round of match play.
Last fall, Knoll was runner-up in her first two tournaments before breaking through against a strong field in October at the Lady Tar Heel Invitational. Six birdies in her first nine holes on Day 2 left Knoll and Sutherland thinking 59. Knoll settled for a 65 and ended the three-day event with a 10-under-par total.
Knoll finished last season ranked 247th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. She’s currently No. 6.
“I was very persistent and patient,” said Knoll, who now boasts a 71.66 average. “I just kind of waited it out.”
There are plenty of big-name players who have slipped into slumps over the years. Some make it back, some don’t.
Sutherland says Knoll doesn’t have “an ounce of give-up” in her.
Surrounding herself with people who held the same faith also proved invaluable.
“Nobody kind of pointed a finger at her and laughed,” Sutherland said. “Her support system held her up.”