Two young, local golfers have given a new meaning to home-course advantage: They let an equally talented friend move in with them.
Eleven-year-old Shannon Aubert, whose parents own a four-star hotel in Switzerland, moved to the United States in September to pursue her aspirations in golf and lives with her good friends Ashlan, 11, and Taylor Ramsey, 12, of Martinez.
Since then, the Ramseys' father, Al, has noticed a difference in Shannon's play.
"Her golf game has definitely improved since she moved in with us," he said.
All three girls dream about playing on the LPGA Tour.
Shannon, who was born in France and briefly lived in South Africa, found playing golf difficult in Switzerland.
The closest golf course is an hour away from her home, and the schools were strict about excusing her to play. Except for summers spent in the U.S., she had a hard time getting in enough practice.
The Ramseys and Auberts have known each other for more than two years. They met when Shannon started playing in some of the same junior events in the United States as Ashlan and Taylor.
When the Ramseys visited the Auberts in April and found out Shannon had been enrolled in a sports school in Singapore in January, they offered to let her live with them. She is now a fifth-grader at Augusta Christian.
Shannon talks by phone to her parents daily. She's visiting them during the holidays and will see them again during Masters Week, when the Ramseys visit Switzerland.
There is no timetable for how long Shannon will stay with the Ramseys.
She was issued a five-year visa and can renew it any time.
"The plan is for her to stay here and play golf as long as possible," Al Ramsey said.
The three girls have found that living and practicing together keeps them in a competitive mindset on the course.
The girls' coach, Greg Melvin, said their mental games have improved and their desire to win is greater since Shannon moved in.
"Their level of play has increased," he said.
All three girls are anxious to begin playing in the more advanced series of junior tournaments that will bring them closer to the LPGA.
"(Playing in those tournaments) would mean a lot more traveling, and basically home-schooling is a must to do that," Al Ramsey said.
"The older they get, the schools are less tolerant on how much they can miss."
Ashlan Ramsey plans to begin home-schooling next year to allow for more time to practice.
The girls typically work about three hours a day, four days per week with Melvin. They also practice a couple of hours on their own each day during the week, and eight hours on Saturday and Sunday. Ashlan Ramsey also tries to squeeze in a couple of extra hours before school.
"They are 100 percent committed to golf," Melvin said.
Each of the girls already has made an impact on the golf course, having excelled in junior events across the country.
While the trio dreams of the LPGA, their educations remain top priority for their parents.
"As parents, what we want them to get out of it is a college education," Al Ramsey said. "Anything beyond that is a bonus."
The girls have given some thought as to where they would like to go to college.
"Georgia," Taylor said, without a missing a beat.
"Duke or Georgia," Ashlan said.
Shannon simply said, "I want to go somewhere where there's a good golf team."
Reach Lisa Kaylor at email@example.com.
Taylor Ramsey, 12
- Won the Starburst Junior Championship in Waco, Texas, in 2005 and '06
- Qualified for the Callaway Junior World Championship in 2005 and '06
- Player of the Year on the U.S. Junior Golf Tour in 2005 for the 11-and-under age group
Ashlan Ramsey, 11
- Won the Starburst Junior Championship and the U.S. Kids World Championship for the 10-year-old girls division this year
- Tied for third at the 2006 Callaway Junior World Championship
- Won all three tournaments on the Plantation Junior Golf Tour for the 11-and-under age bracket
Shannon Aubert, 11
- Finished fourth in the 2006 U.S. Kids World Championship for the 10-year-old girls division after placing third the previous two years
- Finished eighth at the Callaway Junior World Championship
- Took second at the 2005 Pepsi Little Peoples Championship