Despite injury, Fish sticks with golf | AspenTimes.com
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Despite injury, Fish sticks with golf

Jon Maletz
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Aspen’s Ashley Fish eyed her tee shot on the fifth hole in Thursday’s Aspen Invitational as it faded to the right. She watched it hit a tree, then settle in the rough. She picked up her tee, adjusted her team cap and grinned in the direction of assistant coach Margie Landis.”It hit the tree, just like I asked it to,” she said.Fish’s round of 114 included an errant tee shot that disappeared under a pine on No. 10, and one that bounded down the cart path on 11 – she followed the bounces with her right hand. A Fruita Monument golfer shot a tournament-best 82, and Grand Junction claimed the team title with a 268.It was a round replete with adventures and shining moments. A chip from off the green that rattled around the cup on No. 8, then fell in, and an iron from the rough that sailed over the top branch of a tree between her and the green. But one thing remained constant: Fish was enjoying every minute.Almost five months after suffering a substantial knee injury while skiing, Fish is grateful for every swing.”It was very interesting out there,” said Fish, the Skiers’ lone varsity golfer. “But that’s what makes it challenging and exciting. It’s all part of the fun.” Fish was training super G with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club on New Year’s Eve when she severed most of her right knee’s ligaments and dislocated her left shoulder. She hit a patch of soft snow, then flipped into the air. She felt her knee tear immediately. The injury came a year after she broke her collarbone in a crash during a competition in Vail.”It felt like Jell-O. It was flailing in the wind, just like my shoulder,” Fish said. “I really don’t remember what I was thinking in the air. I was just going along for the ride.”Doctors told Fish they had never seen those kinds of injuries before. In fact, a group of surgeons met to determine the correct course of treatment.

Fish said she wondered how she’d swing a club in the following months. But she never ruled out returning to the course. That simply was not an option.She held off on shoulder surgery until the fall. Rehab started almost immediately. It started slowly, with warmups on a stationary bike and flexibility drills. In the past few months, Fish has been rehabbing three times a week, working on agility, balance and strength. She returned to the golf course at the end of March.

“It was out of this world,” Fish said. “I loved it.”Fish competed in Aspen’s first tournament April 3 at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club. However, she had to withdraw after nine holes. Her therapist cautioned her to know her limits and not to rush back into playing; Fish heeded the advice.Thursday, she lumbered around the Aspen Golf Club in a knee brace. She said it’s a burden for the beginning of the round; once fatigue sets in, she’s glad to have it. Because of her injury, Fish may stash her clubs in a pull cart instead of lugging them over her shoulder. While she said she feels pain as the round wears on and her swing starts to suffer, Fish tries to ignore it. After all, things could be always be worse, she said. “I was in the hospital and saw people in neck braces,” she said. “I was pretty lucky with my injury.”She takes each round shot by shot, shrugging off the bad ones with a smile. She may be experiencing discomfort, but she has never complained, Skiers coach Mary Woulfe said.

“Ashley is an amazing athlete and person,” said Woulfe, who was surprised Fish is competing this spring. “She’s an incredible inspiration and has an unbelievable attitude.” Fish, ever the optimist, shrugs off those bad shots that evoke tantrums in others. While she admits it’s often difficult, she strives to find a positive in every shot. It’s an adage she lives by every day.When she first learned of the extent of her injuries, Fish wasn’t dejected, said her uncle, Michael Husaluk. Rather, she decided to pick up an extra high school class – astronomy and meteorology, of all things. “Some days I wonder how it’s possible to be so positive,” Husaluk said, “but she always is. She never ceases to amaze me, in a positive way.”In addition to her studies, rehab and her commitment to golf, Fish volunteers at an assisted living complex and teaches an elementary school student golf. She recently returned from a Model United Nations conference in Costa Rica.Ask her about her inclusion in this summer’s Air Force Academy seminars, which groom a future class of cadets, and she lights up like she hit a 250-yard drive – or sliced one into the water.

In a game that often brings out the worst in sportsmanship, Fish is an exception. She’s eager to learn all she can about golf. And, despite being the Skiers’ only varsity player, Fish never ceases to lighten the mood for those around her. It was visible on the faces of her competitors Thursday.”When you stay positive, it’s contagious,” Fish said. “This game is so great, it’s not worth getting down on yourself.”Fish said she is, plain and simply, in love with golf and her life. And there’s no obstacle – or hazard – she is not willing to overcome. After a day filled with struggles and small triumphs, it seemed only fitting that Fish stood on the tee at No. 15 – her final hole – and blasted a 260-yard drive down the fairway. Fish said is what was her longest shot ever, the kind of shot that brings her back every day. The type of shot that made all those days of rehab worthwhile.Many more are sure to follow.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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