It was fitting that on the day Ally Ewing spoke about National Women and Girls in Sports Day, she was in central Florida at a college golf tournament. Ewing, the winner of last year’s Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee, is the volunteer assistant women’s golf coach at her alma mater, Mississippi State University. That’s because her husband, Charlie, recently took over the program as head coach. And Ally was available while Charlie searched for a full-time assistant.
“It’s been fun,” Ewing said of her coaching debut at the UCF Challenge in Orlando. “At first (the college golfers) were pretty standoffish but I just let them know that I was there to help; there to answer any questions they have and help them be the best they can be.”
She loves the feeling. It takes Ewing back to her days as an All-American with the Bulldogs, supporting her teammates and being part of a program. She had similar feelings when she represented her country at the 2014 Curtis Cup and again in 2019 when she was on the U.S. Solheim Cup team at Gleneagles in Scotland.
But before all of that, Ewing understood the importance of being a girl in sports. That’s because she’d been doing it from the time she could walk.
“I really enjoyed basketball before I got into golf,” she said. “Up until about age 12, I played everything you could play. Then, starting at about 12 years old, softball began interfering with my golf swing and other sports overlapped with golf season. It was around that time that I started focusing on golf and basketball.
“I played basketball up until my senior year of high school and I loved it. A girl that I went to church with went on to play college basketball at South Alabama and another girl played for Louisiana Lafayette. They were older than me, but I had some good players who kept it competitive at church. We didn’t play church league, but we had a full basketball court in the fellowship center and they were always good for a pickup game.
“In high school I played point guard. I ran the floor because I was too small to play anywhere else. But I kept things pretty separate. Once basketball season started in November all the way through spring break when it ended, I put the golf clubs away. It was all basketball.”
As you would expect from an athlete and competitor, Ewing was good on the court, even though she only played during the season. “There were a couple of coaches who wanted me to play AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) travel basketball, which would have gone forward throughout the summer,” she said. “But I knew that golf was going to get me to college, so I shifted my focus to golf.
“But I still love basketball. My sophomore year (of high school), we had a good team and made it to the Final Four at the state championships. It was a great team environment and a sport where I could stay in shape. It provided plenty of cardio.
“My dad thought that was important. I think if I hadn’t played basketball, he would have had me running cross-country or something.”
Now, as she observes the college game again from a different perspective, Ewing understands why so many college coaches ask recruits what other sports they play.
“The art of playing multiple sports has gotten away from us,” she said. “But it’s so important to do other things, to be competitive; to interact and work on a team. I think a lot of coaches want to see that you can put effort into something other than golf. Plus, if you only play one sport, it’s so easy to get burned out.”
Go up and down the range at any LPGA or Epson Tour event and you’ll find players who grew up competing in multiple sports. Angela Stanford was a terrific basketball and softball player. Pernilla Lindburg and Ana Belac were competitive downhill skiers who, for a time, thought about becoming Winter Olympians. Epson Tour standout Gabby Lemieux was also a basketball player who keeps her hands in the game with her husband, who is a high school basketball coach.
“As the years have progressed, we’ve seen so many sports stepping up and so many girls involved,” Ewing said. “There’s a social aspect for girls in sports, for sure. Just being involved with different players from different cultures. Learning to work together toward a common goal, learning to cooperate, learning to lead. It’s so important.
“Sports teaches that by doing. I can’t emphasize its importance enough.”
After saying that, Ewing paused to pay attention to her women’s golf team. “Yeah, it’s just this week,” she said, qualifying the timeframe of her coaching tenure. “But it’s a lot of fun.”