Surprise native Menne building golfing legend at Xavier Prep

Phoenix Xavier Prep junior Ashley Menne, a Surprise resident, prepares to tee of during the second round of the state Division I girls golf championship Oct. 30 at Tucson National Golf Course. [Courtesy Sister Lynn Winsor/For Independent Newsmedia]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Attending Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix has always been worth the drive for Ashley Menne, even though she’s now the one making it.

Not even halfway through her junior year of school, Menne already is one of only three Arizona golfers to win three state girls golf championships.

The all-girls school, its culture, and its golf program makes the long commute from Surprise bearable for Menne.

“The commute is long, especially since I drive to school now. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. If it’s golf season it take about an hour and thirty minutes coming back,” Menne said.

Menne stared playing at age 5 in Singapore after seeing her father and brother hit the ball. She began taking lessons when she was 7, then moved to Surprise in 2011 and attended Marley Park Elementary School through eighth grade.

By this point, she was making her name in the Arizona youth golf community. In that company, she caught the eye of the legendary Xavier golf program and its coach Sister Lynn Winsor.

“We had heard about Ashley and everyone had heard about what a great golfer she was. Our school, academically, is so tough. But at the same time we heard she was a good student. A good citizen, spiritual person, a good golfer and a good teammate — those are the things we go by. She fit right in. The golfing community all know each other out of school,” Winsor said.

Winsor is technically the Gators’ co-coach with Tui Selvaratnam. But there is no doubt Winsor is the driving force for the golf program and beyond.

She just finished her 45th season coaching golf at the prep school and is in her 42nd year as the school’s athletic director.

During that time, Xavier has won 35 titles — including one this November. Winsor is an inductee into the National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the first winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“The way Sister Lynn and Coach Tui run the golf team, I really like it. And I really like the people on the team too. I knew them from individual events I played out of high school,” Menne said. “Also, the school’s great. The teachers and facilities are great. The education is great.”

Her biggest adjustment happened off the course, as Ashley did not know anyone in her grade. Most of her first semester was either homework or golf, where she shared in a team and an individual title.

That year, 2016, rain wiped out the second round of the state golf finals at Aguila Country Club. That meant another team title for the Xavier and a share of her first title for Menne — who tied with Xavier senior Elizabeth Cardarelli and Chandler Hamilton senior Hannah Li.

“I didn’t really want to think too much about it. I was a little nervous because it was my first time there. It was a good experience,” Menne said. “I think there was expectations of what I was supposed to do. Aguila was a really big difference.”

In her sophomore year, Menne played two rounds and did not share the title. Her 140 was enough to beat Michelle Nguyen of O’Connor by two strokes.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be the No. 1. It’s hard to be the No. 1 team but it’s also to be the No. 1 golfer. This year, having won the two state championships, there’s pressure to win the third because that would equal Grace Park and Heather Farr,” Winsor said. “That’s the hardest thing. She handles the pressure so well.”

The mental approach has been her biggest growth. She has the skills. She could always drive and putt and chip and all that. Being able to handle all this pressure — from family, school, your coach and your pro — they put stress on you. How they handle that is important,” Winsor said.

While most of her time is spent in and around Xavier, Menne said she practices often at Falcon Dunes Golf Course next to Luke Air Force Base and occasionally at a Sun City course. She said she also keeps in touch with some friends that go to Shadow Ridge.

But she has become comfortable with the Xavier environment which helps keep her grounded — and busy.

“I definitely changed the way I viewed some stuff. Other than that, I think I’ve handled it pretty well. I have a lot of good friends and coaches that have helped me with that. It’s a good community,” Menne said. “It’s a tight-knit community. Everyone knows each other and they’re super friendly. It’s a different feel compared to public schools,”

Entering the season fresh off a successful summer, Menne had a chance to join the rare air of Farr (a Xavier alum) and Park (Who played for both Xavier and Phoenix Horizon) as the only three-time champions in Arizona history.

As in 2017, the finals would be at the two courses at Tucson National. And now, the pressure was at the forefront.

“She said to me one day that the hardest part is getting to the third one. Everybody talks about breaking records but you have to get to the third before you get to the fourth,” Winsor said. “I‘ve seen it over time where kids quit, they’re don’t want to practice, they’re tired of their parents bugging them and school is getting on them. You’ve got to balance. Fortunately, Ashley’s a great student, because if you had to do all the homework we have here and she wasn’t a good student, it would be a terrible time.”

She shot a 70 in the first round Oct. 29 and a 71 Oct. 30, enough to hold off Scottsdale Chaparral freshman Grace Summerhays two strokes back. Liberty freshman Mattison Frick tied Menne’s Xavier teammate, fellow junior Breyana Matthews, for third — four strokes behind Menne.

“I was glad I was able to get it done this year,” Menne said. “Consistently, my toughest competition is from Xavier.”

Winsor said in her experience the most successful golfers studied hard and did not have time for boyfriends. They practice three hours and have tons of homework. Academically the girls help each other.

Having coach several golfers good enough to forge professional careers in the LPGA, she encourages many of her golfers to at least have a business background or minor.

Menne signed to play at Arizona State. A professional career, she said, is in the back of her mind.

Right now, her biggest golf goal are on the national junior circuit, becoming Arizona’s first four-time champion, and enjoying her ASU career.

“My parents really help me with my focus and how to stay in the moment, not really think too far ahead,” Menne said. “I’m definitely keeping the professional golf career thing in the back of my mind. I’m not too focused on it now. I just want to get through high school in college. If it happens, it happens.”

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