Photo by Candee Milling

By Robert Wilson

       Madison-Ridgeland Academy won its first state championship in golf last week since the late 1990s.

       Don’t look for it to take that long before another one.

       On the strength of five underclassmen in its top six golfers, MRA defeated second-place Presbyterian Christian School by 16 strokes to win the MAIS Class 6A state golf title at Hattiesburg Country Club.

       Freshman Belt Owens shot a four-under par 140 in the two-day, 36-hole event to lead MRA. Owens finished second behind Jackson Academy sophomore John Marco, who won his fourth straight individual state title.

       “We finished runner-up to JA last year and we were leading heading in the back nine,” said third-year MRA golf coach Harry Hill, who is also the MRA’s director of teaching and learning. “The kids remember that, and they weren’t going to let it happen this year. They turned it on in Day 2, instead of letting it get away.

       “There were two key factors why we won the state championship. One, these kids were motivated. They all have a desire to play college golf. They work hard on their game and are going to grind it every day. They get on the course and work on their shots. They are driven and they have goals. They make it easy to manage. Two, I have two great guys to help me. (Former MRA, North Carolina and pro golfer) Will Dottley has helped me since started with the golf program. He understands course management. Will helps the kids with that and knows the stats of the game. My second coach is Brent Cofield, who won two state championships when he coached at Madison Central. This is his first year at MRA. Brent is on the course with the kids and does a phenomenal job. He is also our dean of students.”

       In addition to winning the state tournament, MRA had three second places finishes (at MRA, Jackson Prep and Hartfield Academy tournaments), and two third-place finishes (at Simpson Academy and JA tournaments).

       In addition to Owens, sophomore Max Hutchinson shot 74-72 (a two-day total of 146), eighth grader Ramsey Milling shot 74-78 (152), sophomore Samuel Stockett shot 76-77 (153), captain and senior Josh Allen shot 77-77 (154), and freshman Lilly Garner shot 77-81 (158) for MRA. Milling also plays volleyball, basketball, and cheers. Stockett plays football. 

       MRA eighth-grader Baylor Bates, who competed for the sixth spot, played in several tournaments this spring, but didn’t make the top six for the state tournament. He also plays basketball.

       “There is nothing like winning with a great group of people,” Owens said. “We sought success all year and we did it when it mattered most.”

       Hill, Dottley, and Cofield have grown the MRA golf program.

       “We have 25 to 30 players in the program,” said Hill, who played baseball at Delta State. “The junior varsity won three tournaments this spring and we started our girls program this year.”