Former Valley Christian standout James Mackie beat current Scottsdale Prep junior Davis Johnson 145 to 149 to win the Division III state championship last year, current Yuma Catholic senior Alexandria Schmunk took third at 151 and current Bisbee senior RJ Wright III was one shot back in fourth place.
Mackie signed with Cal Baptist so the 2020 championship was up for grabs. Schmunk and Wright lost out on their final shot at that championship and we caught up Wright to get his thoughts:
Q: You jumped from 34th as a sophomore to fourth place last year and you were in the running as one of the top favorites to win the D-III championship this spring. Tell us a bit about your game and how you were able to focus and improve in such a short time?
A: My freshman year was also a good year, I placed fifth in the championship at Randolph. sophomore year was a rough one, I struggled with the swing a little bit. I was going through a growing stage at the time and grew about five inches, on top of that I was battling a lower back injury. It was a struggle to play good golf, I managed to shoot some solid rounds throughout the season, but the state championship was two long rounds. Finishing 34th was extremely tough for me, I knew my game was better than that, so it drove me to work hard and overcome the humps I hit that year. Junior year was a good year, I played pretty consistent through the season and shot two solid rounds at the Tucson Omni. I was really happy with my performance for the two days, that same year our home golf course in Naco shut down. It was devastating for me, because that is where I grew up and learned how to play golf. It was my second home as well as my other team members. I knew where my game was at the beginning of my junior year, I just had to keep it maintained, and I did that by practicing religiously Monday through Sunday for about 5+ hours a day. I love being out there. I can spend all day out on the course and I think that is what it takes to improve in this game. And I think that’s why my scores proved themselves at state last year, because of my drive and integrity.
Your senior season ended after one round (33) and we know it must be frustrating, but how have you managed to keep it all in perspective?
I did start my senior year off really well, 33 was a great score at that course. I stuck to my game plan which was to just get off the tee, and that is what I did. It is a shorter track but can bite you if you cannot get off the tee, it is definitely a target golf course. It is really frustrating for me for not being able to finish out the year, but I am excited for what my future holds. I am still practicing religiously and playing as much golf as I can through these hard times, I am always working on my game and always trying to improve because the sky’s the limit. The future of my golf game is what is keeping me motivated and driven, I am extremely excited!
Tell us a bit about your future plans.
I will be signing with South Mountain Community College, which is a top-notch golf program in Phoenix.. I am really excited to start my college golf career there, after my two years or less there I will transfer over to the University of Arizona and play golf there as well as finish my studies in sports medicine. When I am in college, I will be playing in qualifying tour events as well as a lot of amateur tournaments. My dream is to make it to the PGA Tour and I believe I have what it takes but I will have to work my butt off, I know it is not easy but I like challenges and I am willing to take it on.
What other sports did you play growing up and who were or are your role models?
When I was younger I played all sports growing up. I quit playing and just focused on golf when I was 10 years old. That is when I decided I wanted to play golf for the rest of my life and go pro. Although my junior year of high school as well as my senior year, I decided to play football. I’ve always liked football…I played because I didn’t want to graduate high school with no regrets so I played, I was the varsity quarterback for the team and we had a solid year this past year. It was a fun time, but with that I still managed my time at the course and continued to improve my golf game and keep it sharp and consistent. My role model is Brooks Koepka, I love his demeanor as well as his confidence on the course. He has immaculate talent and I hope one day I can play against him on the PGA Tour and beat him
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at email@example.com