Giving Her Best
April 2, 2009
By Larry Watts
How competitive is Ashley Bauer?
On a family outing, mom and dad might catch a break and get a mulligan or two. But for sisters Meagan and Shana, there is no slack.
"No mulligans. No gimmes," the University of Michigan junior says firmly. "I'm not one to give away strokes. We're all pretty competitive."
That kind of competitive spirit is probably welcomed by Michigan head coach Kathy Teichert, whose Wolverines have never won a Big Ten women's golf championship. When Shana steps on campus next fall, she'll be able to fill out the Maize and Blue lineup with all three Bauer sisters.
But for now, Ashley is leading the way to getting the Wolverines back on track with the Big Ten pack. The eldest Bauer is currently the all-time stroke average leader in Michigan history with 76.49 strokes per round. She has played in every Wolverine tournament since making the 50-mile trek from Grand Blanc, Mich. in the fall of 2006. Her sister Meagan, a freshman, just recently joined the Wolverines' tournament roster.
"I don't think too much about that career average," Bauer says. "It's nice and I want to improve on it over the next year, but, hopefully, I am setting the bar a little bit higher for everyone else to push for it.
"I want to get this program in the right direction. There have been some great players who have come through here and have been very successful, so to be mentioned with those players is a pretty big honor."
Ashley estimates she was around 5 or 6 years of age when she started getting hooked on golf by accompanying her father to the driving range at their club.
"We all (the sisters) started out with these plastic clubs and we wound up playing in a two-hole league with each hole about 150 yards long," she says. "We then advanced to a four-hole league and then nine holes. It was a lot of fun."
Bauer still cherishes the family outings on the golf course.
"My dad is more of a leisure golfer, nothing great," she says. "My mom would come out and be our comic relief. It's just perfect for the family to do on a summer evening.
"Since I got into high school, my dad doesn't play much anymore. He comes out and caddies for my sisters and me. He's always there for support and helping out our game. He knows the game better than he plays it, and he'll be the first one to tell you that."
Bauer is at the point she needs little assistance from her father out on the course. After tying for 10th at the Big Ten Championships last spring and missing an All-Big Ten second team selection by a fraction of a stroke, she compiled a solid resume during the summer. She qualified for the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at the prestigious Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Ill., where she missed advancing by one stroke. She was the alternate out of the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship qualifier and she advanced to the semifinals of the Michigan Amateur Championship.
"It was pretty overwhelming to play in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier," she says. "I was paired up with a couple of tour pros and it was a lot of fun competing with them. I was able to ask them questions and found out they have a totally different lifestyle.
"I haven't decided if I'm going to take my game to the next level or not. If that's what I decide to do, I know my parents will be behind me. I found out there's a lot of traveling involved, but everyone I talked to loves being out there. You don't do this for the money; you do it because you love golf and I really love golf."
According to the 5-foot-7 blonde, the strengths of her game are her iron shots and hitting greens in regulation. She still needs to work on her game around the green.
"Getting up and down (in regulation) has caused some problems," she says. "More three-putts than needed, but I'm trying to limit those."
But Bauer maintains the perfect temperament on the course, not giving any signs if she is playing her best or her worst.
"You have to stay light-hearted," she says. "If you get frustrated with yourself, it doesn't help at all. You just can't beat yourself up mentally because golf is such a mental sport and you always have to stay focused.
"My mom always tells me to smile and think positive. You have to move past that bogey or three-putt. A lot of people say they can't tell what kind of game I'm playing just by looking at me. I really do enjoy myself out there and I love competing. I'm always ready for the next tournament."
Having all three Bauer sisters at the same college was never in the family plans. Ashley thought she would be headed further south, probably at Louisville or Kentucky. Meagan, who is often confused with Ashley, was probably going to end up at another Michigan school so she could be out of her older sister's shadow. And with her sisters already at Michigan, Shana just saw it as a natural fit.
"I know I've grown up in Michigan, but I don't like the cold," Ashley says. "Both Louisville and Kentucky made offers and my mom has family in Kentucky. Then I came over to Michigan for my recruiting visit and they took me to the Notre Dame-Michigan football game. The way the girls and the coaching staff treated me on the visit plus what Michigan had to offer in academics, it was the perfect fit. Now I have season tickets for every football game!
"Playing golf at the Division I level is a dream come true. I couldn't have picked a better place for education and golf. I just love going to practice with my teammates. We haven't had a lot of success, but we're on the right track and I think we have a lot of potential for next year."
According to Ashley, who is majoring in business, having Meagan around has been nothing but a positive experience.
"I know she was a little worried because we look alike, always did the same things and people would compare us, but it's been fun to have someone here to hang out with and practice with. We talked about it and she realized she had to be her own person. She's got her own group of friends and I have mine, so we can each do our own thing when we want."
And next year the three Bauer sisters will be together again for the first time since high school, which also means the team can count on snacks being brought in from Grand Blanc for most of the home meets.
"Maybe I can even convince my parents to get football tickets and we can have tailgates on the golf course!" says Ashley.