The great outdoors: Golf

Golf: A Q&A with Norris Ashford

June 24, 2012 

  • Tennis, anyone? Tennis is huge in the Midlands. How huge? The U.S. Tennis Association named Charleston as the Best Tennis Town in America, but the Columbia area — with a similar metropolitan population — has more league tennis players. Here are some Midlands tennis stats to consider: • The Columbia Tennis League had 7,355 adult players in 2011. • The Lexington Area Tennis Association had 6,643 adult players in 2011. Richland and Lexington have 175 public courts and more than 580 total courts. • The Lexington County Tennis Complex and the new Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center lure major recreational tournaments to the area, including the USTA National Junior Team Tennis Championships in October. • The other large complexes include the Columbia Tennis Center, Richland County Tennis Center, Southeast Park, Caughman Road Park, Trenholm Park, Crooked Creek Park and Seven Oaks Park.
  • More information Tee it up There are about 350 golf courses in South Carolina and nearly 10 million rounds are played on them each year, according to a study by the SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Golf’s economic impact on the state is $2.7 billion annually.

Editor’s note: We asked Columbia outdoor enthusiasts to share, in their own words, a favorite recreational experience. Here, a Q&A with Norris Ashford about golf.

Norris Ashford, 45, grew up near Monticello Road, just a few miles from LinRick Golf Course. He didn’t play golf, but as he hit the work force like so many others, he graduated to the golf course.

We caught up with him after he toured the LinRick fairways and greens during a fund-raiser for the Promise Foundation, which encourages giving to set up endowments.

When did you start playing golf?

Ashford: I was probably around 28-29 years old. That for me was a little late. I worked for UPS, in corporate America, and a lot of the people I knew or associated with were playing. A lot of older guys I found out later, I didn’t know, especially a lot of black guys, had been playing for years.

I grew up playing basketball and football, and I guess I just developed an interest after I realized a lot of people I was associated with were playing. I’m a competitor. So I took it up and realized it’s not as simple as you might think.

What is it about golf that makes it special?

Ashford: The thing that you like is when you hit that SHOT, and sometimes it’s only one shot in a round that you may hit. And for me, I really like the openness of being out in nature. It’s so beautiful. Anytime you come to a golf course, the grass is always neatly manicured. It’s nice and serene. So for me it’s really about relaxation.

Describe your best day on a golf course.

Ashford: Some days mentally, if I have it together. Maybe an 86, an 88. I typically like to play when it’s warmer. So it probably was spring or summer. The weather was something like it was today, not a whole lot of sun but nice and warm.

I’m sure I was super relaxed because that’s when you play the best. I probably had a lot of other things that were going well so I was relaxed when I came out to play. I came out and had a couple of long drives, and I was putting pretty decent.

I was consistent, not a lot of bad shots. Hit the ball straighter that day. I didn’t have to recover as much. If you don’t play on a regular basis, it’s all or nothing.

Joey Holleman

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