Among the many benefits of competing in college athletics is the opportunity for student-athletes to make life-long friends. Often these friends come from vastly different backgrounds and experiences.
Such is the case of Claudia Redinger and Ryan Ashburn from the Stetson women’s golf team. Both seniors, Ashburn is a Florida girl, from Seminole, while Redinger is from Durban in South Africa.
Over the Christmas break from school, Redinger hosted Ashburn in her home country. For Redinger, it was not only a chance to spend time with family, but also a chance to show off all that her homeland has to offer. For Ashburn, it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
“This was, by far, one of the best Christmas breaks I have had at home since coming to Stetson,” Redinger said. “South Africa is a country that is so diverse, not only with the people who live there, but in the plants, landscapes, traditions and history. I am proud to say that I am South African, and it was an honor showing Ryan around my country.”
For Ashburn, every experience she had while visiting South Africa was new.
“When I arrived, Claudia and her younger brother, Wesley, were there to pick me up from the airport,” Ashburn said. “I made the mistake of getting in on the wrong side of the car and when Claudia asked me if I wanted to drive, I quickly headed for the other side.”
Redinger played tour guide for her teammate for two weeks – from December 27 until January 10. During that time she gave Ashburn the kind of views of her country, which is roughly twice the size of Texas, that only a native could provide.
“I really enjoyed playing the role of tourist in my own backyard,” Redinger said. “I wish that we had more time as there is still so much to see, from the peaceful midlands, to the great Kruger National Park, the Drakensberg to Namaqualand on the western coast.”
Both players documented their trip with journals and photos. Here are a few of the highlights. For a more complete look at their holiday in South Africa, visit www.GoHatters.com.
On Ashburn’s first full day, the duo visited the Inanda Dam and spent the morning tubing and water skiing before flying west across the country to Cape Town and Table Mountain for a spectacular sunset.
“Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to,” Ashburn said. The day ended with a visit to the Cheetah sanctuary in Somerset West, on the eastern side of the Cape.
December 30 started at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for a bus tour around the city of Cape Town. Stops included Groot Constantia (the oldest vineyard in South Africa), Hout Bay, Camps Bay Beach and the Mount Nelson Hotel before ending the day with a picnic in the botanical gardens.
New Year’s Eve was spent at Boulders Beach where they saw some African penguins. A drive along Chapman’s Beak Drive, which is cut into the granite cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean, before a late afternoon flight back to Durban.
The next few days were spent at the beach, playing some golf and enjoying the South African summer along the Indian Ocean. One adventure was zip-lining at Oribi Gorge.
“I really enjoyed playing the golf courses there,” Ashburn said. “Every course is completely different and there is so much elevation change. No matter if it was just a small public course or a nice private one, the views from some of the holes was amazing. Some would look over the ocean, the city or just the valleys, but it was all beautiful.”
The next morning included a drive with a park ranger where they saw many more animals and were even charged by an elephant.
Redinger said that getting to show off her home country to her American teammate was something she really enjoyed. “When I came to Stetson, it was quite a big change for me in terms of the food, culture, people and the way that things get done,” Redinger said. “I think it was much the same for Ryan, but I think that it was an awesome opportunity for her to learn about other cultures.
“South Africa is such a great country and Ryan was immersed in multiple cultures due to our ethnic diversity. I think some of her experiences might have been quite eye-opening.”
Ashburn said her favorite memories from the trip came from the interaction with the Redinger clan.
“I really enjoyed being able to hang out with her family and get to know them,” Ashburn said. “Claudia has a lot of great history in her family. Her grandpa was, and still is, a phenomenal athlete, and her grandma was a teacher. I found it so fascinating that they could all speak at least three different languages.
The only disappointment Ashburn had from her trip was that it didn’t last long enough.
“I do miss South Africa and wish I could have stayed longer,” Ashburn said. “The views were absolutely breathtaking and you could see so far and so much of the city from wherever you were. I would definitely like to go back very soon because there are more places I would like to visit.
They will help lead the Hatters close the season in the A-Sun Championship at Jekyll Island, Ga., where they hope to take Stetson back to a league title and a berth in NCAA Regional play.