For Campbell’s men’s golf team, Ashley Sloup sits somewhere between the assistant coach and the big sister.
“I was able to build a relationship with each of the players and get to know them and know what’s going on,” said Sloup, 25, who is in her second season coaching the Camels men’s team at the alongside veteran John Crooks, now in his 32nd season.
Campbell’s is a coaching setup not often seen in college golf, and Sloup attributes that to Crooks. When former male assistant Matt Moot accepted an assistant coaching position at North Carolina State in February 2021, Crooks brought in Sloup as Moot’s replacement.
Crooks notes that Sloup is normally the only woman in the room when coaches meet at men’s college golf tournaments.
“It took a lot of faith and trust,” Sloup said.
Sloup had known Crooks when she played college golf for Winthrop, who competed with Campbell in the Big South Conference. One day, Sloup reminded Crooks that they had actually met a few years earlier. The two were waiting to collect their tickets to the US Open at the 2014 tournament at Pinehurst and Sloup had introduced herself to the coach – she was a new recruit and wanted Crooks to know they would see each other on the varsity circuit. . Crooks was impressed with the interaction.
“I thought most people wouldn’t have brought this up,” he said.
Campbell’s male assistant Ashley Sloup (Photo by Bennett Scarborough)
Prior to taking on the role of male assistant at Campbell, Sloup spent a season as female assistant at Furman. Her first foray into coaching was at Northwood University, an NCAA Division II school in Midland, Michigan, where she worked with both men’s and women’s teams.
Sloup is in a different area with Campbell’s men, but there are some similarities she is able to draw between training experiences. At Furman, Sloup was able to coach Natalie Srinivasan, the 2020 WGCA Player of the Year and ANNIKA Award winner. In Campbell, Pontus Nyholm, who has since turned pro, was ranked 46th in the world amateur golf rankings.
Sloup saw how men and women attack a golf course differently and learned the nuances of each side of the game.
“Luckily the guys have been so respectful, so welcoming, so inviting,” Sloup said. “I really felt like I was this missing puzzle piece that they didn’t know they were missing.”
Crooks, who runs both golf programs at Campbell, ranks second among all active Division I coaches for tournament wins with 90, leaving him behind only Duke’s head coach Dan Brooks . Crooks is a laid back leader who describes himself, and a lot of that probably stems from his time in this game. Sloup brings a lot of energy to the table.
“I knew her and her personality and she’s a lot of things that I’m not,” Crooks said. “I’m talking about his outlook. It brings energy to the room.
He remembers one of Sloup’s first trips as an assistant. As soon as the van pulled up, it was out to try and unload the players’ golf bags.
The cup is always full in Sloup’s world, says Crooks.
“Each of (the players), when you ask them if you would like someone to walk with you, nobody has ever turned down Ashley,” Crooks said of his men’s team. “They refused me.
Building an effective coaching dynamic with Crooks was easy, Sloup said. She appreciates the wisdom and experience as well as the performance of the deep south that make Crooks one of the memorable figures in college golf.
Asked about some of the more notable “Crooksisms” players likely to be heard in the team van, Sloup prefaced her response with a note on that accent.
“He’s so southern so you have to imagine yourself with a very southern accent,” she said before quoting her boss: “’We have a saying about the golf team – bad luck.’ And then he’ll say, if somebody’s doing something really right, he’ll say, “Oh my God.”
Any player who tries to ignore the wise advice Crooks has to give is likely to hear something like, “Well, what do I know? I’ve only been doing this for 33 years.
Sloup began to call Crooks by the nickname Yoda.
“She calls me yoda not for my acquaintance, and that’s important,” notes Crooks. “Yoda is the oldest living creature she knows.”
In turn, Crooks’ Star Wars-inspired nickname for Sloup is Padawan, a term used in the movies for a trainee in training. The two terms go together in their own way.
“The best thing about him,” Sloup said of the learning curve on Crooks, “isn’t it just that he’s preparing me to one day be a head coach, a great assistant in a other marquee program, but it prepares me and teaches me how to grow as a young woman and as a person.