Ash Barty shocked the sports world Wednesday by announcing her retirement from professional tennis, despite being the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion.
But only 25 years old, could the world's current No. 1-ranked female tennis player's next endeavor be professional golf?
The Australian is a "fanatic" of the sport — Barty told Australian Golf Digest in February 2021 — and she's pretty good at it, too, once impressing Tiger Woods.
At the 2019 Presidents Cup in Barty's homeland, she was invited to help kick off the event and after taking a few swings, the Big Cat liked what he saw.
“She’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?” Woods said.
As COVID-19 paused professional tennis — and nearly everything else — just a few months later, Barty made use of her downtime by working on her golf game. She slashed her handicap from 10 to 4 and then won the Brookwater Golf & Country Club’s annual women’s club championship.
However, her love for golf goes way back.
"My dad (Robert) was a very good golfer," Barty told Australian Golf Digest. "He represented Australia as an amateur and was taking steps to go to college and go through that pathway to become a tour pro, but it didn’t work out for him in the end. He decided to stay home and ended up giving the game away. For more than 20 years he didn’t pick up a club and I always used to muck around in the backyard with whatever old clubs I could find. Then, when I stopped playing tennis there for a while, it was an opportunity to play a little bit more golf and Dad and I started playing together a bit. I think I was hooked from that moment on.
"Golf has always been a sport that’s come quite naturally to me. I mean, even my mum was a very, very good golfer herself and her whole family loves to play. I guess if there was one sport that’s truly in the Barty genes, it’s probably golf, more so than tennis."
Barty is quite the three-sport athlete. Between 2015-16, she took a lull from tennis and played professional cricket in Brisbane. And if the three-time Grand Slam winner decides to take up golf competitively after her tennis career, she wouldn't be the first to do so.
Fellow Aussie Scott Draper played professionally and tried to make it on the PGA Tour. Marty Fish has excelled on the celebrity circuit, winning both the Diamond Resorts Invitational and the American Century Championship. Though a year ago, Barty didn't think she'd follow suit.
"It’s funny listening to other golfers suggest I could turn pro at golf if I committed to it," Barty said. "It was always something I joked about with my uncle when I used to muck around and play with him. He always said that he’d be my caddie on the LPGA Tour, but no, I think for me, two sports is enough. Tennis is obviously the focus and cricket was a bit of fun, but golf for me is a hobby. I love it."
With her illustrious tennis career now in the rearview, maybe Barty reconsiders that statement? She'll have plenty of time to ponder embarking on a third sports career. But for now, she said in her retirement video she's focused on being "Ash Barty the person for a while."