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St. Pius’ Garrett makes dramatic return to course

St. Pius golfer Ashlee Garrett puts a shoe over a brace she wears as her broken foot and ankle heal from a car accident. GREG SORBER/JOURNAL

Sometimes, you never see it coming. Ashlee Garrett saw the truck that could have ended her life.

“It all happened so fast,” she said.

Her brother, Tyler, was behind the wheel. They were driving from their home in the Northeast Heights to the St. Pius X campus, where the twin siblings attend high school. They had reached the light at St. Joseph’s Drive, the road that leads to the campus, and Tyler had pulled into the left-hand turn lane.

The light turned yellow. Tyler began to merge onto St. Joseph’s. Traveling north was a commercial truck, roughly half the size of an 18-wheeler, according to Tyler. The truck T-boned them, smashing into the car where Ashlee was sitting.

“The fact that she survived is crazy,” said Chris Moya, the Sartans’ girls golf coach.

And, Tyler said, had the three airbags not deployed inside their Volkswagen Jetta – which was destroyed in the wreck – both of them might have been killed.

“It could have been way worse,” Tyler Garrett said. He broke his nose in the crash because of the airbag.

Ashlee Garrett, last year’s Class 5A state champion, was more seriously injured. She fractured the L-1 vertebrae in her lower back, plus broke her left ankle and a bone in her left foot. She was in a huge, torso-covering brace and a cast for six weeks.

“I just remember a car coming,” Garrett said of the Feb. 28 accident. She didn’t even have time to warn her brother of the impending collision. “I don’t remember getting out of the car.”

But less than two months later, Ashlee Garrett – heroically – was back on the golf course for St. Pius.

Not only that, but on Monday at the Shootout in the Desert at Canyon Club, the senior finished fourth as she walked Canyon Club’s hilly layout and carded an 84.

“It was really exciting (for us),” said Sartan senior Shamyra Sanchez. “From her recovery to shooting so well, that’s impressive.”

It had been less than two weeks since doctors cleared her to return. And even as late as Friday, Moya, who is also the Director of Golf at Los Altos Golf Course, wasn’t sure he could expect Garrett to walk a full 18 holes under tournament conditions, and he did not want to risk her health or her possible participation in the upcoming state tournament.

Not until Saturday morning did Moya hear back from Garrett, who turned 18 three weeks ago. One text said she’d wait until the Sartans’ district tournament to return.

A little later, she dispatched another text. “Can I play on Monday?” she asked.

Which she did. Moya told her there was no obligation to finish the round, but Garrett soldiered through the round despite a tough back nine – “I was a little disappointed with how I played on the back” – and was only two shots out of second place.

“I felt I was ready,” Garrett said, asked why she felt this was the time to come back. “And you have to start somewhere. I just said, ‘Why not?’ I love to win, and it’s my last year, and I really wanted to get back and do the best I could.”

And while she was eager to join her teammates for the final three events of the season, which concludes with the 5A state tournament in Hobbs on May 7-8, she had another motive:

She needed to prove to her future college coach at Long Island University-Brooklyn – Garrett is taking part in a huge signing ceremony at St. Pius today – that she hasn’t lost her skills.

“The coach was a little worried about it,” Garrett said. Next year, she said, may have depended on her getting back on the course.

“I was a little nervous, a little worried,” Sanchez said of her friend returning. “But she said she was ready, and I trust in her.”

Moya was hardly surprised about Garrett’s amazing performance Monday.

“You have to know Ashlee,” he said. “When she sets her mind to doing something, she is rigid and determined to complete the task. That’s her mentality. That’s what makes her special.”

St. Pius’ team certainly benefits from having Garrett. The Sartans, who have suffered two excruciating losses to Artesia in the last two state tournaments, including last year in a playoff at Canyon Club, have a senior-dominated lineup that now has its centerpiece back in uniform.

“You could tell a family member was missing,” Moya said.

But can Garrett be a factor at state with so few (two) tournament rounds leading up to the event?

“She is always a factor,” Moya, smiling, responded. “Because of her determination and her desire to compete. We play on the executive course here, and she always wants to kick the crap out of me.”

However, the accident has triggered something else in Garrett, and her brother.

“Both of us, we’ve both been really optimistic (since) the crash,” Tyler Garrett said. “There’s no time to get down about it. You just have to get up and keep going and get back to your normal routine. It just says a lot about Ashlee’s character. She never gives up, no matter what circumstances are thrown at her.”

That terrible ordeal, Ashlee said, adjusted her outlook on life.

“That day was shocking to me,” said Garrett, who still wears a smaller brace for her back, and also a brace on her left foot. “It makes me realize that I need to enjoy life more.”

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