Last week at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, there was one side who really embodied the spirit of the tournament.
It was eight years ago this month – the same year during which the Women’s Four-Ball debuted – when Shannon Aubert and Calli Ringsby were a part of the Stanford women’s golf team as the Cardinal won the 2015 NCAA Championship at The Concession Club in Bradenton, Florida. It was the program’s first national title and a foundational piece to the dominant force Stanford has become in the ensuing years.
Aubert and Ringsby arrived in Palo Alto, California, as freshmen in the same class – Aubert a native Frenchwoman who went to prep school in Florida and Ringsby from Colorado – and they lived every element of college golf side by side. They were roommates for two years, vented about their games to each other, grinded through 6 a.m. gym sessions and together contemplated their futures.
It’s a badge of honor to go through college golf, especially at a rigorous academic institution such as Stanford. Through that, these two golfers from different backgrounds created a special friendship.
“Shannon has always been the little spark plug,” Ringsby told Global Golf Post. “Always talking, always making jokes, just a bubbly personality. And I think we really jibe well because we're both super competitive but also pretty silly.”
When they graduated in 2018, Aubert and Ringsby decided to eschew professional golf for other endeavors. Aubert had played in two U.S. Women’s Opens, was a medalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and won the Florida Women’s Amateur, among other accomplishments, but was searching for something more stable beyond the nomadic life of pro golf. Ringsby battled a wrist injury during college – she had the same type of surgery that Aubert ended up having on both of her wrists post-college – and didn’t have a collegiate career that was indicative of her talent level.
Most college golfers at that level will at least give pro golf a passing shot, but Aubert and Ringsby knew their aspirations lay elsewhere. They came into college with an assumption that they would turn professional, but their experience – and their friendship with each other – changed their perspective. The two had many conversations about their choice as Ringsby decided earlier in her Stanford career and Aubert decided later on as an upperclassman.
“There's definitely some days where I'm like, ‘Wow, I miss the adrenaline and excitement that comes from playing a sport and being in a competitive environment,’ ” Aubert said. “But I'm really happy with where I'm at … there's so many more variables in golf, and I do really enjoy getting to play and getting to watch, but I think the non-professional route was probably the right direction.”
Added Ringsby: “I had a lot of things I wanted to do that were well outside of golf. I want to have a family; I'm really into the outdoors; I have other things I want to accomplish. I still love to compete, but I feel like ultimately I decided that I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through the ups and downs of pro golf.”
Now five years later, the 27-year-olds live in separate parts of the country – Aubert in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and Ringsby in Denver – but have traced similar paths once again.
Aubert worked as a strategy and analytics consultant at Deloitte for a few years before leaving corporate America for the startup world. She’s currently a general manager at Moxie, a startup in the medical/tech arena. Ringsby went into the private equity realm coming out of school – it ended up being a poor fit, but the experience inspired her to carve out more of an entrepreneurial path. She is now a software development product manager for SwingU, a golf GPS and stat-tracking app. It’s coincidental that Ringsby ended up back in golf, although her experience is valuable in her current role.
Both of them laugh when they are asked if work is tougher than golf. The failure rate of golf is so absolute and can be such a burden when playing at a high level. Work brings its own challenges but has been a healthy change of pace.
“I didn't touch a club for I think two years (after graduation),” Ringsby said. “It was really nice just to shake the snow globe and do something totally different and explore other interests.”
Although Aubert and Ringsby left professional golf for their own pursuits outside of the game, they haven’t left golf – or each other – behind. The two friends are now making an annual ritual out of qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and then playing in the tournament, which they were able to do the past two years.
This past week at The Home Course in DuPont, Washington, Aubert and Ringsby shared medalist honors at 11-under 133 and then won their first match before losing in the round of 16 to eventual champions Gianna Clemente and Avery Zweig. Had they reached the quarterfinals, they would have been exempt into next year’s event – but they also kind of enjoy the fact that they can get together for qualifying again.
“It’s just such a great way to be able to meet up and to spend time together doing something that we both love. We can kind of turn back the clock a bit, get into the grind zone and also have some fun doing it. "
In a tournament dominated by high schoolers and college players, Aubert and Ringsby were among the elder stateswomen in the field.
“I think we were some of the volunteers’ favorites,” Aubert said. “Because every time we got to the range, we're like, ‘Oh, about eight or 10 minutes (of hitting practice balls) will suffice,’ versus girls that have been grinding away. It’s definitely a very, very different attitude (compared to college golf) going in. I think that's why we enjoy the team (event) so much, because it's not the same level of stress. We really are here to have a good time.”
This may not seem like much, but the story of Aubert and Ringsby is precisely why this championship exists.
It’s hard to maintain friendships as competitors grow older. Families are started, careers require more responsibility and the gaps in geography are more difficult to overcome. A lot of golfers go off on their own, leaving past friendships to become more of an “I’ll like your Instagram story but won’t go further than that” kind of situation.
But in this event, Aubert and Ringsby have a great reason to stay connected. It’s competition that matters, but it does not have the same seriousness as college golf or the professional game.
“It’s just such a great way to be able to meet up and to spend time together doing something that we both love,” Ringsby said. “We can kind of turn back the clock a bit, get into the grind zone and also have some fun doing it. It's not life or death. We’ve already kind of had our fun. We got to go to Stanford; we got to win a national championship. So it's nice to be at the place we are where we’re really just out there to compete to see what we can do and ultimately just have some fun together.”
Added Aubert: “After college, everyone kind of spreads out and starts living their own lives, and so it becomes difficult to connect. This is like a secure way that we're going to see each other a couple times a year. It’s been a really nice way to keep that friendship alive and see each other in a way that is organic and fun.”
That’s the power of golf. Most athletes don’t have this type of outlet for those who choose not to play professional sports – which is nearly all college athletes.
The U.S. Women’s Four-Ball, and the ensuing men’s four-ball championship taking place this week at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, will always fly under the radar on the amateur calendar. But it’s clear that there is something special here.
Aubert and Ringsby are a great example of why that is.
Top: Calli Ringsby (left) and Shannon Aubert enjoy reconnecting with each other and their competitive sides at the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball.
Courtesy Shannon Aubert