Head women's golf coach Ryan Ashburn's debut season here at Charlotte has arrived. In April, Ashburn joined the team as the head coach after spending her last three seasons coaching at UAB. After the cancellation of last season, the anticipation for this season has been building.
Ashburn started her time as an assistant coach at Campbell in 2014. Following this stint, she became an assistant coach at Baylor and eventually traveled to UAB to become the head coach. Ashburn led UAB to two tournament titles in her second season as their coach.
Ashburn shows a glimpse into how she and the team are feeling about this new era for Charlotte golf.
Gabie Stanfield: What was it about coaching that lured you in?
Ryan Ashburn: I never thought of being a coach, to be quite honest. When I played down at Stetson University, I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do after college, and someone said to me, "you know Campbell has this great opportunity, there's an assistant position open and I think you should go and try it out." It was weird coaching people who I just played against about three months prior, but the relationship aspect [of coaching] is what kind of kept me. I had the opportunity to assist with the men's team, so the number of things I learned in my first year there pretty much checked me in and made me so excited. I just like helping people and seeing them get better.
GS: What made you choose Charlotte, and what sort of things about our golf program spoke to you initially?
RA: My parents grew up in Virginia, but my family lives in Virginia and North Carolina. I spent a little bit of time up here when I was younger, so I was kind of familiar with the area of Charlotte. The school itself is what made me choose Charlotte. It's got a good history of academics and sports, and while the women's golf program didn't have a very long history, the history it did have was good, and they produce success here. When I set foot on campus, I was amazed by all of the buildings and the campus itself, even though it was a little eerie because when I came to my interview. It was during Covid, and there wasn't a single person walking around campus. But the atmosphere in the athletic department and the relationships I saw with everyone joking around, I was like, "that's something that I really want to be a part of." Everyone spoke so freely to each other; there was no "this person is up here, and this person is down here," and because of that environment, I knew that I could potentially be successful here and that these people were going to help me along the way.
GS: With this being your first season here at Charlotte, what will you use from your past success with UAB this season?
RA: I think it goes back to the relationship aspect. I love getting to know people and deep diving and figuring out who they are and what makes them tick, and this year it's pretty unique. We have six transfers. We have a whole new team, and I am sure people will realize that we've all only known each other for about two to three weeks, but I feel like this team has been here for four years. The way that they have clicked, I just haven't seen anything like it. There are only six people, but there are no outliers; they love spending time together, which can be uncommon with small teams. Getting to know more about them, about their game, bettering them not only as an athlete but as a people, and giving them the tools they need to be successful are things I plan to do.
GS: Having a team filled with such young players, how are you expecting them to step up?
RA: The cool thing is while there may not be one specific leader yet, they've all encouraged each other. I think we've realized we're all in the same boat, not only them but myself and Ellen [Secor] as well. We're all figuring things out together. I don't know as far as expectations go for this first tournament; I will see what happens.
GS: After a two-year hiatus that has led to anticipation building, what are your expectations for this season?
RA: With our strength of schedule, I have pretty high expectations. We're playing against the top power five teams in the country in every tournament. While some people see that as intimidation, it's vital for us and our ranking system works. But this team is good enough, and just from what I've seen in practice and qualifying, they're more than capable of competing with some of these best teams in the country. So I have high expectations, and we, as a team, expect a lot from ourselves.
GS: After being away from North Carolina, where you began your coaching career, you missed the number one thing?
RA: I would definitely say the people. North Carolina is obviously a very scenic place, and I love exploring. Still, the people in this state, I feel like you can't beat that southern hospitality where everyone's willing to help. I've also been able to see more of my friends and family in the last three months than I have in the last three or four years.
GS: What has been your favorite part about the city of Charlotte so far?
RA: Definitely the food in the city. Everything revolves around food.
GS: What impact or legacy do you hope to have on the girls on the team and the team's history as a whole?
RA: As successful as the team was before I got here, they took an individual to regionals and not a team. They were trending in that direction, but because of outside entities, they never got there, so that is kind of our first goal this year. We know we're good enough to make it to the postseason. As far as the team goes, when they leave, I want people to say this is the best four years, or however many years, that they spent here. I want them to have learned a lot and be prepared for when they go out into the world—whether that involves pursuing golf or other aspects.