Editor’s note: This is the second part of a Q & A with Linksoul founder John Ashworth. You can find part 1, where he talks about the launch, success and future of his new clothing brand, here: http://www.maderasgolf.com/maderas-q-and-a-with-john-ashworth.blog
We now present Part 2 …
Earlier this year, John Ashworth, founder of Linksoul clothing company, purchased the lease to Goat Hill Park, a neglected long-time Oceanside public course that had been targeted for redevelopment.
When he submitted his bid, Ashworth says, half-jokingly, he was simply trying to protect his weekly golf round, but now he find himself as golf’s version of Bob Villa playing “This Old Course” and trying to resurrect the place, which is close to the I-5, with a new vision. At the moment, it’s the Charlie Brown tree of golf courses.
Goat Hill will be the home of the North County Junior Golf Association and, Ashworth hopes, a savior for kids in the area.
Right now, the course is a mix of bare fairways and crab grass, but as we walked nine recently, Ashworth saw beauty where others would only see blight.
To play on a phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the titleholder,” but the more you listen to Ashworth, the more you realize how determined he is to make a go of restoring and preserving the course.
Q. What’s your original connection to Goat Hill?
A. I played it in high school nine-hole matches in the mid 70’s when it was a nine-hole regulation par 36. Then my golf buddies and I started playing there about four or five years ago, and we watched the decline. We heard the city put out an RFP and we we’re afraid they were going to mess with our golf rounds. (Laughing.)
We put together a plan almost as a lark and our proposal was granted. I didn’t think we’d get it, then it was like, “Now what are we going to do?”
Q. What do you see here that others are missing?
It’s a cool spot that just needs a little love. It’s got a lot of great views, and it’s a challenging little course. If we had grass, we wouldn’t be able to keep people away.
Left: One of the course’s tough-to-hit par 3s. Right: An ocean view overlooking I-5.
Q. But going back to the mission of your company, you were dismayed as a golfer that the course might close. Something about that troubled you.
A. It’s sad to see golf courses like this going away across the country. It’s a big loss, and I don’t think people even realize it. We need to have courses for kids and beginners, and that’s what this is.
Q. Beyond making the course playable again, what’s the bigger mission you see for Goat Hill?
A. We have to get to the course right, but the part I get fired up about is to have a safe haven for the kids in the neighborhood. It’s a tough neighborhood, and we want to have after-school programs and a caddy academy. We want to be a positive influence. We want to keep 13- and 14-year-olds out of gangs and off the streets.
That part is going to be really rewarding. Already is.
Q. What else do you want to see?
A. I want to have leagues, lots of leagues, and get the game back to what it’s supposed to be, which is great social outdoor recreation. I want to have couples leagues and senior’s leagues. I just want to get people out there together.
Q. And a persimmon league, correct? Why do you still play wooden clubs? Have you always?
A. I played woods growing up and in college and then changed after. I went back to woods about four or five years ago.
When you hit them good, it’s just so much better. It resonates in your body. I think there’s more of an art to it. You’ve got to swing a little slower, be a little more precise. But the reward is great when you hit it right. It actually feels better than metal.
Q. Your schedule shifts daily between the clothing company and the course now. You’ve got a lot going. Are you the type person who’s only happy when he’s crazy busy?
I didn’t think I was, but maybe I am. But the days are crazy. No day is typical. But what else am I going to do? It’s a challenge. And if it saves a couple kids, it’s totally worth it.
For everything the game of golf has given me, I have to give something back.
No. 18 at Goat Hill Park