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Golfing buddies, Ashley Chow and Olivia Wilkie, with Branksome’s golf coach, Denise Smith
May 31, 2017
A Winning Combo - Golfers Who Dance
This has been a year of great achievements for two students who are friends, top golfers and high-level ballet dancers.

Grade 9 student Ashley Chow had a stellar showing on the final weekend in May at the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour in Petersburg, Ontario—the only national junior tour run exclusively by PGA of Canada Professionals. Playing in the Girls 15-18 division, 14-year-old Ashley shot 79, 79 = 158 to win by six strokes. With this win, she qualified to compete in the US Kids Teen World Championships in North Carolina this July.

“I felt so proud because there were a lot of great players in this division, and I knew I had to play my best to beat them,” says Ashley of her triumph. It’s only the latest in a winning streak for Ashley and her Grade 7 golfing buddy, Olivia Wilkie.

This past year, thanks to hours of training by golf professionals and guidance from Branksome’s golf coach, Denise Smith, both Olivia and Ashley competed against Grade 11s and 12s. Their combined scores put Branksome in first place in all the tournaments leading up to the May CISAA Championships.

“And then,” says Coach Smith, “we won the CISAA Championships and Ashley won lowest scoring female!” She adds of her two star golfers: “They are both very dedicated and focused. Ashley is a mentor to Olivia, always helping her develop her skills and offer her advice. I am a very proud coach!”

Both young women pair their athleticism with artistry as ballet dancers. Olivia has just learned that she has been selected for a junior role with the Canadian National Ballet Company, to dance in their production of Swan Lake in June. Clearly, Olivia’s studies in classical ballet at the National Ballet School of Canada are shaping her into a top ballet dancer as well as a competitive golfer.

“I like to do contemporary and modern dance, although something jazzy can always be fun,” says Olivia. “I think one main element that overlaps in all sports and performing arts is hard work. Of course, you can be naturally good at a sport or art, but, to get better and be the best you can be, you have to dedicate time and effort. You only get out what you put in.”

Ashley’s champion golfing spark was lit last summer in Alberta, ironically during her studies at the Alberta Ballet School. “I would dance in the mornings, then do school till 5:00 p.m. I was a bit bored in the evenings, so my dad persuaded me to try golf. I would go to this really nice Golf Canada facility for around three hours many nights.”

Ashley also sees parallels between her two performance spheres. “Golf and dance are quite similar because for both, you must be very coordinated and have a lot of body and self awareness. For example, in golf you have to understand where your backswing is going and make sure that it gets to the same place every time. To be good in both, you have to be flexible, with good core strength and footwork and be mentally strong. In dance, if you make a mistake you must move on and not let it affect your entire performance. Likewise, in golf when you have a bad hole, you must move on.”

Both Ashley and Olivia will be in full golf mode this summer. Olivia, in her second summer of competing, will be playing in many tournaments within her club and with the Canadian Junior Golf Association. She plans to work on different aspects of her game and will take time off for a one-week dance intensive.

Ashley looks forward to intensive golf training, and especially to her international competition at the US Kids Teen World Championships. “I am really excited to get this chance to represent Canada and test myself against girls from around the world. I am striving to get to a very high level with the best in Canada and the world, and I hope to get a Division 1 NCAA scholarship.”

Ashley adds: “I am so very fortunate because at the level of golf I play, I would normally have to give up dance, but because of my teacher at Branksome, Ms Wood, I have the ability to pursue these two passions.”

The worlds of golf and dance are already enriched by these two remarkable young women. Have a great summer, Ashley and Olivia!

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